Movie Review: JFK (1991)

Classic dramatic film achievement routs all
pretenses about the CIA’s[1] criminal conspiracy

JFKJim Garrison: Could the Mob change the parade route, Bill, or eliminate the protection for the President? Could the Mob send Oswald to Russia and get him back? Could the Mob get the FBI, the CIA, and the Dallas Police to make a mess of the investigation? Could the Mob appoint the Warren Commission to cover it up? Could the Mob wreck the autopsy? Could the Mob influence the national media to go to sleep? And since when has the Mob used anything but .38’s for hits, up close. The Mob wouldn’t have the guts or the power for something of this magnitude. Assassins need payrolls, orders, times, schedules. This was a military-style ambush from start to finish… a coup d’etat with Lyndon Johnson waiting in the wings.

Story by Jim Marrs and Jim Garrison
Directed by Oliver Stone

Kevin Costner … Jim Garrison
Tommy Lee Jones … Clay Shaw/Clay Bertrand
Kevin Bacon … Willie O’Keefe
Gary Oldman … Lee Harvey Oswald
Michael Rooker … Bill Broussard
Jack Lemmon … Jack Martin
Laurie Metcalf … Susie Cox
Sissy Spacek … Liz Garrison
Joe Pesci … David Ferrie
John Candy … Dean Andrews
Pruitt Taylor Vince … Lee Bowers
Jay O. Sanders … Lou Ivon
Walter Matthau … Senator Russell Long
Sally Kirkland … Rose Cheramie
Donald Sutherland … X
Edward Asner … Guy Bannister

One of the more powerful scenes in the movie occurs close to the beginning, as New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) and his assistant Bill Broussard (Michael Rooker) interview Willie O’Keefe (Kevin Bacon) in the prison yard.

O’Keefe is part of the New Orleans homosexual community, and Garrison is interviewing him regarding his association with international businessman Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones).  You’d think a gay man back in the day (when there, like, were no gays) would be sensitive and caring, tolerant of others, sympathetic to the aims of the young president.  But he’s a hateful bigot of the worst kind:

Willie O’Keefe: People got to know why he was killed.
Jim Garrison: What I need to know is why. Why are you telling us this?
Willie O’Keefe: Cause that motherfucker Kennedy, stole that motherfuckin’ election, that’s why. Nixon, was gonna be one of the great presidents ’til Kennedy wrecked it up. Got niggas running around askin’ for their damn rights. Why do you think we got all this crime nowadays? He promised those motherfuckers too goddamn much you ask me.

O’Keefe’s mother obviously should have washed his mouth out with soap.  In fact, a whole bunch of these guys hanging out with Shaw— who is clearly the money and brains funnel between Washington and the various paramilitary ground operations in Louisiana and Texas—are afflicted with potty mouths: including anti-Castro militia leader David Ferrie (Joe Pesci) and former ONI officer Guy Bannister (Ed Asner).
Pesci and Asner turn in career performances, both as right wing, war-machine-loving, Kennedy-hating schemers.  Ferrie is the funniest-looking miniature psycho you ever saw, and Bannister is Halloween scary—an alcoholic General Jack T. Ripper wannabe on steroids.

jfk2Lee Oswald (Gary Oldman) is hanging out with this gang of angry lunatics and losers, but he seems far too sane to fit in comfortably. Director Stone dramatizes the behavior of the crazy men based on documentary evidence conveyed in Jim Garrison’s book, On the Trail of the Assassins, and Jim Marrs’ book, Crossfire: The Plot that Killed Kennedy.  The would-be assassins’ agents’ activities— where they were and what they were doing—leads to a convincing alternative theory and how Lee Harvey Oswald probably fits into that theory.

Keep in mind epistemologically, to prove a theory—whether an official government theory or an alternative one—one must assemble a “preponderance” of noncontradictory evidence.  When that evidence has been integrated into an argument/proposition without any inconsistencies, a theory is said to be proven.

All theories are subject to disproof by a solitary contradictory fact.  I.e., when a single substantial piece of evidence contradicts the theory—e.g. of the incapability of Oswald firing three shots in under six seconds from a 6.5 mm manual bolt-action Mannlicher-Carcano rifle with a defective scope, striking a moving target obscured by a tree, the last of the three bullets making a U-turn as the killshot striking Kennedy’s head from the front, esp. when FBI nitrate tests show Oswald had not fired a rifle that day (okay, this is a bunch of facts)—the theory is disproven… to a rational certainty. This is how science (and criminal prosecution) works in a free country.

Hence the official theory of the JFK assassination, as put forth in the Warren Commission report, is disproven easily a dozen times by its many contradictions by documented, observable facts.  Further, we know the government has covered up the truth by refusing, as a minimum, to release Kennedy’s autopsy report or X-rays.  That’s a fact, Jack. (Indeed, JFK, the movie, is a humanistic portrayal of how motive, means, and opportunity for arguably the Crime of the Century lie with forces a lot more manifestly sinister than the Patsy of the Century.)

It’s also important to realize that although the government’s official theory of the JFK assassination is logically disproved, we cannot state —especially, considering the government’s withholding of massive amounts of evidentiary data—that any particular theory of the assassination is proved.  We can say, however, that the official theory stands disproved, and correspondingly a provable alternative theory exists… or can be developed.  Still, while the argument advanced via Stone, Garrison, and company—that the warmaker money-power killed Kennedy in a coup d’etat—may not be proven, I believe there is a substantial evidence for the case that they argue.

“You know going back to when we were children, I think that most of us in this courtroom thought that justice came into being automatically, that virtue was its own reward, that good would triumph over evil. But as we get older we know this just isn’t true. Individual human beings have to create justice. And this is not easy. Because the truth often poses a threat to power. And one often has to fight power at great risk to themselves….” — Jim Garrison

Aside from consideration of the facts pertinent to the crime, JFK succeeds in bringing the ideals of self-government and popular control of government into focus.  The performances of every single actor —from Kevin Costner as the heroic district attorney Jim Garrison, to his mostly exasperated wife played by Sissy Spacek, to the conscientious witnesses who were intimidated by the police or whose testimony was altered, to sleazy, fearful enablers like attorney Dean Andrews (John Candy) and Bannister’s drinking buddy Jack Martin (Jack Lemmon), to the exquisite wholesale twistedness of Clay Shaw/Bertrand (Tommy Lee Jones)—are literally breathtaking.  You get the feeling of a divine presence walking among the sets, and I’m sure these Hollywood icons or working stiffs feel their moments on stage put them at the pinnacle of their craft.

“Because they care. Because they want to know the truth. Because they want their country back. Because it still belongs to us… as long as the people have the guts to fight for what they believe in. The truth is the most important value we have. Because if the truth does not endure, if the government murders truth, if truth dies in the hearts of our people, then this is not the country I was born in and it’s certainly not the country I want to die in….” — Jim Garrison

And, yes, Costner is brilliant, at least for this one role demonstrating he’s not just the same character in a different costume from his other movies.  As he delivers his oration to the jury, with his impassioned plea for justice to “our dying king,” his SunFLOWereyes tear up and so do mine.  And, yes, for anyone fighting for truth, justice, and liberty, JFK is a total inspiration in other matters… whether one is seeking the truth of 9/11 or prosecuting the war crimes of the Bush administration or, now, the Obamanites.[2]


[1] I use CIA as Dr. Martin Schotz does in History Will Not Absolve Us, to signify “…the entire web of U.S. military intelligence agencies, including but not limited to the Central Intelligence Agency proper, the Office of Naval Intelligence, Army Intelligence, the National Security Agency, and so on.”

[2] Last night, watching JFK for the umpteenth time for inspiration, I checked IMDb for quotes and did not find many of the key sections of the screenwriter’s stunning courtroom summation by Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner). I took approximately two hours to transcribe that oration and have uploaded the PDF file to my site here This needs to be memorized by high school students.

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