Parkland (2013)

I’ve always admired the history of the United States. If I had to pick an area that most fascinated me, it would be the Presidency. John F. Kennedy became the 35th President of the United States in January 1960. When asked who my favourite historical person was, I always say it was Kennedy.

Just because he was handsome and full of life doesn’t mean he was a great person. Book after book reveals a really dark and shady legacy, filled with prescription drug abuse and affairs with countless women. No matter what he did or didn’t do, there is only one thing he will be remembered for, and that is the events of November 22, 1963.

While driving in an open motorcade, President Kennedy was shot three times, one shot taking out the side of his head, all but killing him on impact. Parkland was a film that gave the world a glimpse of the hospital’s events, where the slain President spent his final minutes.

Parkland has been on my watch list for years, and on the 57th anniversary of that fateful day, I finally had a chance to watch it. This historical drama is just jammed pack with a whos who of Hollywood stars. Marcia Gay Harden is a nurse, Zac Efron and Colin Hanks are doctors, Paul Giamatti is Abraham Zapruder, Ron Livingston and David Harbour are FBI agents, James Badge Dale is Lee Harvey Oswald’s brother, Billy Bob Thornton is a federal agent, Tom Welling and Gil Burrows are Secret Service Agents.

Hospitals are usually a busy place; however, it’s not every day you get the President of the United States to drop by, clinging to life. It is awe-inspiring to see how much effort the doctors put into saving his life. Even when the machines stopped beeping, Efron kept pushing.

Since this had never happened in modern times, the room turned into utter chaos after the President was officially declared dead. There were last rites to be administered, there was a new President to swear in, there was a body to transport back to Washington, there were so many questions and no answers.

I was moved by the secret Service efforts to get the plane’s casket, especially the scenes with Welling and Burrows. Fighting back the tears and the emotions around losing their boss, the two do everything they can to physically get the casket on the plane and get airborne. Whether that moment is accurate or built up for dramatic purposes, it was definitely one of my favourites. It meant a lot to me to see his guys do one more heroic thing to honour his memory.

There are, of course, three major plot lines to follow in Parkland. The hospital and the moments after, then Zapruder develops his film to show the FBI the fatal headshot. In case you didn’t know, it is the only known footage of the incident. Then there is the pursuit, arrest, and murder of Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong). Oswald winds up in the same hospital as Kennedy, a conflict for most stand since this is the man who killed the President in cold blood.

Overall, I was impressed with how the story stayed true to the events. It showcased so many people and their efforts. Parkland showed us moments we wouldn’t know about unless you read about them in books or were there to witness them.

There are hundreds of movies and books out there about the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I’d recommend a movie like JFK by Oliver Stone as my first pick, but Parkland would definitely up there in the top five. 8/10

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