Friday, January 03, 2014

Tonight's Movie: Parkland (2013)

PARKLAND is an interesting film which approaches the Kennedy assassination from a unique angle, focusing on it as a medical and law enforcement procedural.

The film covers the chaos at Parkland Hospital as Drs. Jim Carrico (Zac Efron) and Malcolm Perry (Colin Hanks) attempt to save the President's life, although when Jacqueline Kennedy (Kat Steffens) hands Nurse Doris Nelson (Marcia Gay Harden) part of her husband's head one realizes he must have been beyond saving from the time he was shot.

In a bizarre twist, days later the exact same medical team found themselves trying to save the life of assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Jeremy Strong).

In the aftermath of the shooting, the FBI and Secret Service try to get to the bottom of the case, their grief compounded by the burden of feeling they had failed in their jobs. Secret Service Agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton) is one of the agents who deals with Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti, recently seen in SAVING MR. BANKS), who happened to be filming the President's motorcade on his 8mm camera at the exact moment of the assassination.

I enjoy "tick-tock" procedurals and appreciated the way the film approached well-known history from a fresh perspective. By and large it was quite well acted, particularly by former Oscar winners Harden and Thornton. I found Efron took me out of the story a little bit, just because it's hard for me to get past him being pretty boy Zac Efron, but his character was a young resident so I guess in fairness there wasn't really anything wrong with the casting.

This 93-minute film was briskly paced, particularly the first half; scenes in the second half focusing on Zapruder and especially the Oswald family slowed down the film's energy somewhat.

The movie was written and directed by Peter Landesman, based on a book by Vincent Bugliosi. Tom Hanks (father of Colin, who plays Dr. Perry) and Bill Paxton were among the film's many producers.

The film had a straightforward "you are there" documentary style similar to UNITED 93 (2006), so it was interesting to learn the films shared a cinematographer, Barry Ackroyd. Ackroyd also shot CONTRABAND (2012), a Mark Wahlberg film I reviewed two years ago.

Parental advisory: The movie is rated PG-13 for bloody ER trauma sequences as well as cursing. There is a great deal of blood, but otherwise the film isn't especially graphic; it's made clear what happened wasn't pretty but the camera stays away from that area. Particularly as it focuses on an historic event, I think the film would probably be fine for roughly age 11 or 12 and up, depending on the individual child. I think most of my children would have been fine with it at that age but one would not, so parents may want to size it up for themselves first.

For more on this film, here are reviews by Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times and Leonard Maltin.

The trailer is at IMDb.


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