Released by: Warner Brothers
Released on: November 11, 2008.
Director: Oliver Stone
Cast: Kevin Costner, Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker, Jay O. Sanders, Sissy Spacek
Year: 1991 Purchase From Amazon
Say what you will about his films or about his politics, but there’s no denying that Oliver Stone is an interesting man, and an interesting director. A former Vietnam vet who has been jailed for drug possession and who fought off a notorious taste for cocaine, Stone has made a name for himself as the premiere political filmmaker working in Hollywood today – whether he likes it or not.
The ultimate party movie for conspiracy theorists, JFK is based partially on established facts, partially on Oliver Stone’s opinions, and primarily on the writing of Jim Garrison. Though the film takes far too many liberties in regards to what really conclusively happened, it remains a fascinating, if paranoid, study of the still mysterious events surrounding President John F. Kennedy’s tragic assassination in Dallas on November 22, 1963.
Jim Garrison (played by Kevin Costner) was a DA in New Orleans when he decided to open an investigation to look into the how the Federal Bureau of Investigation handled the evidence and circumstances under which the President was killed, in an attempt to prove that Lee Harvey Oswald (played here by the brilliant Gary Oldman) did not act alone and that there was more than one gunman. Garrison puts forth the hypothesis that the reason that Kennedy was shot was to bring the United States into the escalating Vietnam conflict, which Kennedy was opposed to getting messed up in. The conspiracy thickens when he states that Lyndon Johnson, VP at the time, declared he would get the nation involved, further propagating the motive for the assassination.
Even if Garrison and Stone made the entire thing up, JFK would still be a great movie. It’s very well acted with a great supporting cast including Tommy Lee Jones, Kevin Bacon, Vincent D’Onofrio, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matheau, Joe Pesci, and even Eurocrime regular Tomas Milian. All of the director’s trademark paranoia come bubbling to a big, crazy boil in this film as the longer the film goes on, the thicker and deeper the conspiracy gets.
The version of the film presented in this set is Stone’s approved director’s cut, which runs roughly seventeen minutes longer than the version that played theatrically. Some of the new footage includes considerably more Oswald footage which gives some much needed details about his past and some of his Cuban ties, two extra scenes between Garrison and Broussard, and some extended scenes in the court room where the trial is held.
JFK is presented in 1080p VC-1 encoded 2.40.1 anamorphic transfer that honestly looks pretty damn good. The added depth and detail really help the picture quality here and the more natural looking color scheme is a plus as well. There are some scenes that look better than others and some of the mixed media bits are a bit on the rough side but generally what we’re left with is a very nice looking transfer with solid colors, nice foreground and background detail and very little in the way of heavy grain or print damage to complain about. There aren’t any issues with mpeg compression artifacts or edge enhancement to not and generally, the movie looks great.
The primary audio track on this Blu-ray release is a Dolby TrueHD 5.1 mix, though standard definition English and French Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound options are also included, as are subtitles in English and French. Not surprisingly, the TrueHD is the way to go – it’s just got more depth. Surrounds are used well to fill in the mix nicely and score has a bit more punch to it. Dialogue is nice and clear throughout and the levels are well balanced from start to finish. Generally, this isn’t a super aggressive mix but it’s quite an active one with a lot of detail and depth to it – a nice effort on WB’s part.
JFK features a commentary from Stone (the same one that was on the SD release) and, as seems to be the norm with Stone’s commentary tracks, it’s good stuff. He’s an interesting guy with some interesting ideas and he does a great job of explaining his side of the story here. He talks about where he got the ideas from, how he wanted to make the film, why he cast it the way that he did, and about shooting in various locations. On top of that he covers the various theories and conspiracies that surround the assassination. If you at all appreciate what Stone does and how he does it, you’ll likely find a lot to enjoy about this commentary.
Beyond JFK: The Question Of Conspiracy is a great feature length ninety-minute documentary that further explores the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s assassination. Created in 1992, this is a pretty interesting look at the various theories that surround JFK’s assassination, from the ‘Lone Gunman Theory’ to other takes on what could have happened. A lot of this material will be familiar to those with an interest in either the film or the real life events that inspired it but it does make for interesting viewing regardless. This documentary, like all the other supplements on this release, is presented in standard definition.
While the Deleted/Alternate Scenes and the Alternate Ending have been seen before, it’s nice to see them included again, presented here with optional commentary from Stone who explains why they were shot and why they were taken out of this, his preferred cut of the film. Clocking in at over fifty minutes in total, there’s quite a bit of material here and the commentary puts it all into context.
Rounding out the extras are some multimedia essays on the events covered in the film and the movie’s original theatrical trailer. As far as the packaging goes, Warner has used the same format that they used with the Natural Born Killers and Bonnie & Clyde Blu-ray releases. The disc is housed inside a hardcover book that contains some essays on the film as well as a bunch of full color pictures – classy!
The Final Word:
Say what you will about Oliver Stone and his sometimes questionable politics, JFK is a fantastic political thriller made all the better by an all star cast and some great cinematography. Few politically angled films go as in depth as the ones Stone makes and this one holds up well. WB’s Blu-ray looks and sounds great and contains a slew of informative and interesting supplements making this an essentially purchase for Stone fans.