If Killing Kennedy did not present itself so seriously, I would swear that it was a parody of the whole “lone gunman” theory. It bends over backwards to present the findings of the Warren Commission as irrefutable fact, even when those findings directly contradict themselves. There were times when I laughed out loud at how ludicrous some of it was, then the credits rolled and I realized what I had been watching.
Killing Kennedy is based on the book of the same name by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. The film has the same relationship to what actually happened as Fox News has to actual news. Fair and balanced, indeed. I am kind of happy that I did not realize this until the end though, because I actually sat down and watched this as a “real” movie.
The ridiculously somber tone was the first tip-off, then you notice how each box is meticulously ticked. The lives of John F. Kennedy (Rob Lowe) and Lee Harvey Oswald (Will Rothhaar) are presented in parallel fashion from 1960 to the assassination. So on the Kennedy side we get the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and him being counseled to stop his womanizing. Meanwhile, Oswald is shown defecting to Russia, getting married, then coming back to the United States, and having his wife take his picture holding a rifle and a newspaper.
When Oswald effortlessly fires three precise shots in eight seconds from his old rifle, we buy it because seeing is believing. My laugh-out-loud moment came afterward, just before Jack Ruby (Casey Siemaszko) shoots Oswald. He is crying, and telling a man how awful it will be for Jackie Kennedy (Ginnifer Goodwin) to have to come back to Dallas for the trial. This is supposed to be his motivation to kill Oswald? It is almost impossible to believe that 50 years later we are expected to buy such a bad lie.
Perhaps even harder to believe is the fact that Ridley Scott attached his name to this as executive producer. Killing Kennedy was originally broadcast on the National Geographic channel, and is now available on Blu-ray. There are two versions of the film offered here, the broadcast version (1:27:40), and an extended version (1:29:56). I have no idea where they cut 2:16 from, because I only watched the extended version. Sorry, but it did not seem worth the effort to watch it again to figure it out.
There are four bonus features included. Camelot’s End: The Making of Killing Kennedy (19:34) features members of the cast and crew discussing the film. Participants include Lowe, screenwriter Kelly Masterson, director Nelson McCormick, and Scott. The Kennedy Mystique (6:38) contains interviews with Scott, Lowe, and others discussing the life of JFK. The general tone can be summed up with Scott’s comment that Kennedy was like a rock star.
“Killing Kennedy is basically the truth about what happened to John F. Kennedy in his life and in his death,” says Bill O’Reilly in Interview with Bill O’Reilly (6:06). In explaining his book, he states, “we took the FBI reports and put them on the page in a very fair way.” So there you go. I must say, that man gives me the creeps. He should go back to Inside Edition where his brand of fantasy was only directed at movie stars.
If you have any doubts about the credibility of this whole project, check out the fourth bonus. It is a 16-second tourism commercial for the state of Virginia titled Virginia is for Lovers. It makes about as much sense to include a commercial for the state of Virginia in a movie about the Dallas assassination of a president born in Massachusetts as the script itself. That is, zero.
At least the movie looks great and sounds great on Blu-ray with a 1:78:1 aspect ratio and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1. There is also an Ultraviolet download code included for those who wish a digital copy.
I am no conspiracy theorist, but from what I understand, the majority of Americans believe that at the very least we have not been told the full story of what happened on November 22, 1963. Even O’Reilly himself is forced to acknowledge that there are discrepancies, especially about the CIA and Oswald. I would not go so far as to claim that Oliver Stone’s JFK (1991) was the gospel truth, but the questions it raised have become part of the conversation and have to be acknowledged in any serious study of the assassination.
In completely ignoring all of the discrepancies, and accepting the FBI report at face value, Killing Kennedy struck me as absurd. Like I said, the idea that Ruby killed Oswald to save “that poor woman” from having to go through a trial made me laugh out loud. Who in the hell would buy this kind of nonsense? Then I realized that there are people who watch Fox News and do just that. And then I get scared.
I have respected and enjoyed Ridley Scott’s work for years, and took his involvement with Killing Kennedy as an endorsement. I will not be making that mistake again. This movie represents 89 minutes of my life I will not get back. For shame, Mr. Scott.