“JFK” is definitely an acquired taste. It’s the Oliver Stoniest of Oliver Stone movies, which is saying something. Despite the title, this isn’t a biopic of the former U.S. President, but a suspenseful investigation of his assassination. Costner plays a New Orleans DA who suspects foul play and starts to unravel a massive conspiracy. Okay, so I strongly recommend you don’t use “JFK” as a primary source for your book report on the Kennedy Assassination, as it’s less history and more History Channel. Seriously, the theories sound like something you’d see on a documentary airing at 2 a.m. or find in a paperback at your uncle’s garage sale.
Yet, it’s a cinematic tour de force and a masterclass in frenetic filmmaking. No “point-and-shoot” for Mr. Stone, as the storytelling here is so fast and furious, it’d give Michael Bay motion sickness. “JFK” isn’t style over substance, but style in service of substance. Stone’s style creates a paranoid environment where nobody is safe, information is coming from all directions, and the moral lines are shades of solid gray. Whatever your opinion of the movie, there’s no denying Costner is excellent. For one, he leads a stacked cast — Joe Pesci, Gary Oldman, Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Kevin Bacon, what?! But more importantly, his movie star presence and poise provide a source of stability to the utter insanity surrounding him. This may go on the bottom of your Costner list and I can respect that, but I’m putting it near the top of mine.