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(Director’s Cut)

Even though I was born after the incident took place, I have never really believed that a lone gunman could have pulled off the assassination of President Kennedy. I know that I am not alone in that belief, with other, better informed individuals proposing conspiracy theories since the 1960s. Director Oliver Stone's powerful 1991 film JFK ($35) takes a long hard look at the evidence and proposes theories, which shoots holes in the official government report on the assassination. Despite the fact that JFK has taken some dramatic license with events and characters, the film takes does present its audience with enough evidence to make viewers question the official government line. JFK is based upon the book On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison, which tells the story of the only person to launch a prosecutorial case in relation to the assassination of President Kennedy.

Kevin Costner gives the best, most impassioned performance of his career portraying earnest New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who launches his own investigation into the assassination of JFK, after discovering inconsistencies and implausibilities in the government issued Warren Commission Report. Through the course of the investigation, Garrison uncovers some startling truths about how the government operates, as well as reasons why powerful people, both inside the government and on its outer fringes, might want to eliminate President Kennedy. Eventually, Garrison brings a case against Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones), a shadowy figure who may or may not have ties to the CIA.

Director Oliver Stone fills JFK powerful imagery that recreates historic events, in addition to his repeated use of the explosive piece of film that shows the actual assassination of John F. Kennedy. For this release, JFK has been issued in it complete director's cut, which incorporates seventeen minutes of additional footage that was not found in the theatrical version. Running a whopping two hundred and five minutes, one would think the director's cut of JFK would strain the viewer’s patience, as well as their posterior, but nothing could be further from the truth. JFK is such an engrossing film, that one will find it has reached its conclusion long before they become aware of its length. The first rate cast of JFK also features Sally Kirkland, Donald Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Joe Pesci, Walter Matthau, Sissy Spacek, Laurie Metcalf, Edward Asner, Jack Lemmon, Vincent D'Onofrio, Gary Oldman, Brian Doyle-Murray, Wayne Knight, Michael Rooker and the late funnyman, John Candy, in a surprisingly good dramatic turn.

Warner Home Video has made JFK available on Blu-ray Disc in a 2.35:1 aspect ratio presentation that has been encoded onto the disc with the VC-1 codec. The 1080p presentation is an excellent representation of the director’s stylized intentions and does a much better job of dealing with the divergent materials than the SD DVD. During the course of the movie, Oliver Stone has utilized various types of film stock, including some 8mm footage. Additionally, JFK jumps back and forth from black and white to color, which gives the presentation an uneven, disconcerting quality that has an intentionally jarring effect on the viewer. The high definition image perfectly replicates every trick that Stone and cinematographer Robert Richardson pull out of the bag. In addition to the wildly varying film stocks, sequences within the film are intentionally soft and somewhat grainy, however as I stated earlier, the Blu-ray Disc accurately renders the filmmaker's intentions. Sharpness and fine image can be quite impressive, depending upon how any given shot was produced. Color reproduction ranges from quite muted to fully saturated; depending upon how any sequence should look. Blacks are solid, whites are crisp and contrast has a variable quality based upon how an individual shot or sequence was produced. The elements from which JFK has been mastered are very clean, but occasional blemishes do show up from time to time.

JFK is presented on Blu-ray Disc with a 5.1 channel Dolby TrueHD soundtrack. The lossless soundtrack improves upon the potency of the standard Dolby Digital track. While JFK is primarily a dialogue driven film, sounds are placed throughout the soundstage for maximum effectiveness. Additionally, the surround channels spring to life during key moments, as well as providing the requisite ambience and musical fill throughout. The bass channel is surprisingly potent, but never overused. John Williams' superb score is the soundtrack’s most memorable sonic element and is reproduced with all of the fidelity that the lossless encoding can provide. Voices are cleanly reproduced and the dialogue maintains complete intelligibility. English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 channel tracks are also encoded onto the disc, as are English and French subtitles.

The interactive menus allow one access to the standard scene selection and set up features, as well as, as well as the supplemental materials, which have been ported over from the DVD release. Director Oliver Stone provides an insightful running Audio Commentary that discusses the film; it's theories on the assassination, as well as the controversy that the film stirred up upon its release. This is a very good commentary track and is definitely worth the time investment. Beyond JFK: The Question Of Conspiracy is a ninety-minute program that looks at the assassination, the film, the conspiracy theory, as well as offering interviews with actual witnesses to the event. There are twelve Deleted/Extended Scenes that are offered to complement the release of the director's cut of JFK. At two hundred and five minutes, I doubt any more material could have been added back into the body of the film, so it is nice to see what Stone was forced to trim away from this engrossing film. These deleted/extended scenes can be viewed with or without Oliver Stone's comments.

There are two multimedia essays on the DVD, which look at the history of the assassination and how the film has effected its aftermath. Meet Mr. X: The Personality And Thoughts Of Fletcher Prouty is a series of interviews with an individual in the film who provided information to Garrison concerning "the conspiracy." Assassination Update- The New Documents provides a look at how the film forced the government to declassify certain documents related to the assassination earlier than the proposed year of 2029. A Theatrical Trailer closes out the video portion of the supplements. JFK comes in a book styled packaging that contains thirty-six pages of photos and notes.

JFK remains a potent, albeit controversial, motion picture about one of the most unforgettable events of the 20th century. No matter where one stands in regards to "the conspiracy" surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy, JFK is an important motion picture that is worth seeing at least once. The Blu-ray release of JFK ups the ante on how good this film can and should look. Than said, JFK is a film that no Oliver Stone fan will want to be without- especially in high definition. Very highly recommended.



JFK [Blu-ray] (1991)


DVD & Blu-rayDisc reviews are Copyright © 2008 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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