ParklandThursday 21 Nov 2013
Director: Peter Landesman
Starring: Zac Efron, Paul Giamatti, Marcia Gay Harden, Tom Welling, Billy Bob Thornton, James Badge Dale, Jeremy Strong, Jacki Weaver
Duration: 93 minutes
At this fifty year remove, our knowledge of the assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy in Dallas on November 22 1963 is as ingrained as all the great historical facts and dates of the ages.
Phrases like "book despository", "magic bullet", and even "grassy knoll" have long become grim shorthand for dark, confused times, the whiff of conspiracy cordite, and America's final and terrible loss of innocence.
Those grand events and their aftermath have since been well documented in numerous films and books (an estimated 40,000 have been published) but what of the "ordinary" people on that extraordinary day, the by-standers to history?
Parkland takes the grainy, flickering figures from black and white TV footage and the blurry primary-coloured blues, greens and reds of Abraham Zapruder's home movie footage and gives them life and voice.
Parkland is the name of the hospital where the nurses and doctors battled to save the President but we are also given an account of what the security detail, the journalists, and home movie cameraman Abraham Zapruder did that day at Dealy Plaza. Everyone's face is stricken by shock, contorted by confusion, and utterly bewildered by what they see.
The President himself is a prone bloody mess on a gurney as his wife refuses all entreaties to leave the operating theatre as nurses and surgeons realise that theirs is a hopeless task. At one pathetic point, Jackie offers up the contents of her bloody hand. The camera need not linger - it is a part of the President's brain and skull.
Neither does director Landesman need to show the actual terrible sickening moment caught by Zapruder on the day; in this YouTube era it already has an eerily unknowable familiarity. Parkland is moving and very well done indeed. It is a credit to first-time director Landesman that he points his camera and finds a new angle on a very old story.