TIFF 2013: Parkland – Capsule Review

Director: Peter Landesman
Writer: Peter Landesman (screenplay), Vincent Bugliosi (book)
Starring: James Badge Dale, Zac Efron, Colin Hanks, Billy Bob Thornton, Jacki Weaver, Paul Giamatti
Runtime: 93 min
Rating: 14A

Parkland relates the assassination of President Kennedy and the events of the days following from the perspectives of several persons who played key roles. Director Peter Landesman presents his audience with numerous new and previously unconsidered viewpoints, causing one to consider these events from new directions and to realise the devastating effects one event may have on many lives. Based on Vincent Bugliosi’s non-fiction book Four Days in November, the film retains the tone of a gritty documentary by using a handheld camera and often presenting blurred and unfocused shots that appear as if they are real footage.

In order to reveal the entire story behind these events, many perspectives are relayed, including those of inexperienced doctor Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) who is forced to tend to Kennedy upon his arrival at Parkland, the assassin’s stunned brother Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale) who must struggle with the deeds of his kin, and the accidental videographer Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti) who becomes traumatized after capturing the event on tape. These wholly believable performances create the suspense that is often difficult to generate in a film where the ending is already known; the shock felt by these characters translates to the audience, and it is easy to become caught up in Jim’s hopeful fervour as he attempts to revive Kennedy, or to feel pity for Robert while he mourns the loss of a brother whom he simultaneously loves and hates. When the film shifts its focus from Kennedy and his secret service onto the family of his assassins, the scenes fascinate simply because this perspective is undoubtedly one that is often ignored.

Films such as Parkland take known historical events and change the way in which we look at them by revealing new stories and showing the widespread effects one act may have. As Landesman seeks to convey the perspectives of multiple individuals in relation to the assassination of President Kennedy, he forces an audience to consider these events from new and often ignored viewpoints. A viewer may easily become caught up in the emotions of the characters and forget the known outcome, resulting in a successfully suspenseful piece of film.

Overall Rating:  3.6/5

Photo Credit: Toronto International Film Festival