Gripping 'Parkland' Shows Ripple Effects Of Kennedy Assassination
Published: Sunday, October 6, 2013
Updated: Sunday, October 6, 2013 18:10
After 50 years, the story of President Kennedy’s assassination has finally dramatized into a film. The focus of Parkland, however, is not just on the president and Jackie Kennedy, but on people who were intimately involved in the disaster and are often overlooked. Not only does screenwriter and director Peter Landesman create an ominous tale of one of the greatest national disasters to hit the U.S., but he shows how many unseen people, not just the victims, have been affected by tragedy both in the past and in the present.
Landesman knows how to frustrate the audience with dramatic irony easily. The story starts as a normal day in Dallas, Texas. Business is as usual and there is a calm, uncaring feeling about the day. The president is in town, but everyone is lax, even the FBI in Texas. They go on lunch break and are told to enjoy the parade with everyone else. The resident doctor at Parkland Hospital, Dr. Charles “Jim” Carrico, played by Zac Efron, is not even in his scrubs, but wearing a stark white shirt and tie smoking a butt before his shift starts, since the surgeons and supervisors are upstairs talking together, on break. Gleeful businessman Abraham Zapruder, played by Paul Giamatti, ecstatically waits outside to take a film reel of the motorcade with his camera. The hospital switchboard operators are barely paying attention, and people watch on the streets. The only thing that seems alarming is the ominous, climactic music in the background. The viewers are on edge waiting for the responses of the people, waiting for the actions and wondering, “why is no one alarmed? Why don’t they know?” This scene, however, is a realistic picture of most disasters. Most people are not looking for disaster when it happens, and do not know until it is too late.
As disaster finally ensues, the stories unravel. Vice President Lynden B. Johnson is escorted into the building for protection. Jackie Kennedy clings to her husband, while the secret service agents, including Roy Kellerman (Tom Welling), carry him inside. The shocked Carrico and nurses try to save the president while waiting for another doctor to come. Blood flies onto the white medical uniforms while Jackie stands outside the room, holding brain matter in her hands. Tensions are high and as this is happening, Zapruder, who caught the killing on tape, is taken by secret service agent Forest Sorrels to make copies of the film while the media tries to get their hands on it.
The public watches and among them is Robert Oswald (James Badge Dale). What’s worse is that a suspect’s name is said on the news and his co-workers ask him, “Isn’t that your brother?” Landesman not only focuses on the secret service agents, but on the Oswald family. Robert faces hostility from the police and has to face his mother, who believes that Lee is a hero secret agent for his country. You also see the killer himself, Lee, talk to his brother with an uncaring demeanor. The movie focuses on a perspective not often seen in the films. You really feel sorry for this man whose name is now put to shame forever.
Back at the FBI headquarters, the agents realize that they had screwed up. Lee Harvey Oswald had been tracked for months and had even stopped by the office threatening to shoot an officer. They could have arrested him for that, and stopped the entire day from happening. Instead, at the end of the day they did nothing but burn the evidence.
The only off point of the film is the lack of crowds and public chaos in the streets and in the hospital. The movie almost seems choppy with its use of clips, and the confused tone of some parts. In 93 minutes, however, this movie dramatizes the entire story of America’s great loss of national innocence. Streaming between vintage clips, radio, clippings, and live acting, the movie lingers with the regrets of the past and shows how many lives were changed with the one shot of a gun.