Director Oliver Stone revisits the world of his 1991 film JFK for the new documentary JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass – here’s our review.
As he points out at the start of his new movie, Oliver Stone ended his 1991 classic JFK – starring Kevin Costner – with a card explaining that many files related to the assassination of US President John F Kennedy in 1963 would to be declassified in 2029. As it turns out, that declassification was accelerated, and there’s thus a lot more information available to Stone now than there was when he made his original film.
He’s thus chosen to revisit the case for effectively a sequel documentary, JFK Revisited: Through The Looking Glass. He places himself as our guide through the tale of what happened in the 30 years after the release of the first film, and often goes into microscopic detail as to the thousands of documents which have since come to light.
Working with writer James DiEugenio and the voice work of Donald Sutherland and Whoopi Goldberg too, Stone the director skillfully weaves archive footage and a whole host of talking heads, as he seeks to more fully explore what happened. Some of that footage – of the assassination itself – is far more shocking than we got before, and there’s a gravitas and detail to the documentary that’s hard not to appreciate.
Furthermore, Stone repeats – albeit to a slightly lesser extent – the trick he pulled off first time around, in that he makes this accessible and digestible. If you have no interest in the case, it’ll soon be a slog, but even those with a passing knowledge of the Kennedy case will find something of interest.
What I did start to feel though fairly quickly – and it never went away – is that I wasn’t getting balance. I’ve no problem with a documentary where the maker of it is overt about their position, but what Stone argues he’s putting across here is something that gets to the bottom of what happened in Dallas on 22nd November 1963. I can’t say with any certainty that he does that. I certainly think he puts a strong working theory, but his interviewees feel there to support that, rather than interrogate it to any degree.
It’s a film thus aiming to prove that there was a conspiracy at the heart of the Kennedy assassination, and the documentary firmly supports this viewpoint with working. But to my eyes, to use parlance from the film, it doesn’t really come close to finding its own magic bullet. I felt like I’d got lots of interesting detail, yet an overall argument that I thought was better presented first time around.
It’s nearly two hours long, and I must say it holds the attention for a good amount of that. But what it doesn’t do is, ultimately, what it promises it will. And by presenting this as a documentary rather than a dramatic film, it’s harder to justify it not hitting such an overtly stated goal.
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