Parkland. The assassination of President Kennedy may have changed the course of world politics, knocked the American national psyche square in the teeth and permanently altered media standards, but it also happened to ordinary people. As the 50th anniversary approaches, journalist Peter Landesman’s riveting debut feature turns history inside out, meticulously re-creating the events of the 22 November 1963 and the days that followed from the perspectives of the workers at the Parkland hospital in Dallas; the bureaucrats, investigators and law enforcement officers charged with responding; and other individuals caught up in the resulting maelstrom. Featuring a stunning ensemble cast (including Zac Ephron, Paul Giamatti, Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden and Jacki Weaver), the film pointedly eschews hagiography, using everyday detail to signify the broader implications of the event. Here, a nurse’s snap decision not to put assassin Lee Harvey Oswald on the same operating table Kennedy died on, is as portentous as any eulogy. The moral dilemma faced by Abraham Zapruder when the media clamour to purchase his Super 8 home footage; the burden of guilt-by-association born by Oswald’s brother; and the choice to self-protect made by FBI agent James Hosty; all these human moments accumulate into a whole that feels grander, more resonant and inventive than any biography.
Premiered at the BFI London Film Festival on October 16 2013.