It’s often said that the assassination of President John F. Kennedy marked the moment when America lost its innocence. Such a monumental event in American history is given a rather cursory going over in Killing Kennedy based on the best seller by Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard. The actors are good ones and the era gets a more than reasonable representation in this made-for-television feature, but everything about the finished product seems incomplete, unfinished, perfunctory.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/AVC
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1
Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HDMA
Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French
Run Time: 1 Hr. 28 Min./1 Hr. 30 Min.
Package Includes: Blu-ray, UltraVioletkeep case
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 02/11/2014
The movie travels parallel tracks in the lives of its two principal persons: John F. Kennedy (Rob Lowe) and Lee Harvey Oswald (Will Rothhaar). We see Kennedy get elected, deal with the Bay of Pigs fiasco and the Cuban missile crisis, engage in a rather busy life of extracurricular sexual activities, and be brought back closer to wife Jackie (Ginnifer Goodwin) when their two-day old baby Patrick dies. All of this leads to Kennedy planning his reelection campaign and deciding that he needs to do some politicking in Texas to solidify his base there. As for Oswald, the film deals with a similar four years in his life which involved defecting to Russia where he meets and marries his wife Marina (Michelle Trachtenberg), his return to the United States, and the difficulties he finds landing and keeping a job with constant scrutiny from the FBI who believe his sojourn to Russia might have made him an enemy of America. Finally landing a job at the Texas Book Depository sets up the film’s climactic assassination, Oswald's attempts to escape leading to the death of a police officer and his own subsequent death at the hands of nightclub owner Jack Ruby (Casey Siemaszko).
The Production Rating: 3/5
All of these are facts which could be found in any decent history book, but the film which runs for less than ninety minutes can only give a superficial glance at any of these events, and the depth and development one would need to have complete understanding of the situations simply isn’t there. Screenwriter Kelly Masterson and director Nelson McCormick bounce back and forth between their two primary characters in scenes that don’t really squeeze the utmost drama out of any of the truly interesting scenarios which are being focused on. The unhappy marriages of each of the men, for example, or the challenges presented to them in their jobs (Kennedy’s Presidency and Oswald’s inability to hold down a job) are the stuff of rich human drama, but we only get glances at the problems and not developed dramatic narrative. (To be fair, the Cuban missile crisis sequence does generate some decent tension, but it obviously can’t hold a candle to a full length drama devoted to that one topic – The Missiles of October which is still regarded as something of a masterpiece.)
On the Kennedy side of things, only Jack Noseworthy as Bobby Kennedy maintains the accent and offers a portrait (brief as it is) of the firebrand that Bobby was at this stage of his political career. Rob Lowe and Ginnifer Goodwin both let their accents drift in and out and don’t quite manage the amount of charisma needed to fully capture these two remarkable individuals. (She, however, does have some beautifully modulated dramatic scenes.) At certain angles, Will Rothhaar is the spitting image of Lee Harvey Oswald, and he delivers an interesting performance of a man fraught with doubt and general indecisiveness (and likely mental illness) who nevertheless does finally make a planned course of action for himself and follows through with it. Michelle Trachtenberg is attractive and touching as the wife Marina trying desperately to keep her family together. Francis Guinan also gets a moment or two to react and take over as Lyndon Johnson, and Casey Siemaszko is likewise okay as Jack Ruby.
The film is presented in its television widescreen aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and in 1080p resolution using the AVC codec. Sharpness is very good, and contrast is consistently maintained. Color depth varies between desaturation for the scenes in Russia in the distant past to more colorful and realistic color and flesh tones in the scenes later in the story. Some 8mm home movies have blooming color and lots of grain, all deliberate. The film has been divided into 28 chapters.
Video Rating: 4/5 3D Rating: NA
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix doesn’t offer much in the way of ambience for the entire soundstage. The mix is decidedly frontcentric except for occasional musical forays from Geoff Zanelli’s score which drift into the rears. Dialogue is always understandable and has been placed in the center channel.
Audio Rating: 3.5/5
Extended Edition of the Film (1:29:56, HD): basically a minute of additional footage is present in this edition. It can be chosen from the “Play” menu.
Special Features Rating: 3/5
Camelot’s End: The Making of Killing Kennedy (19:39, HD): director Nelson McCormick, producer Ridley Scott, writer Kelly Masterson, and stars Rob Lowe, Ginnifer Goodwin, Jack Noseworthy, Michelle Trachtenberg, and Will Rothhaar describe their work on this eighteen-day production filmed completely in Richmond, Virginia (which also doubles for Minsk in the Soviet Union).
Bill O’Reilly Interview (6:06, HD): the co-author of the book describes his aims in writing it and expresses his pleasure in the resulting filmed verion.
The Kennedy Mystique (6:38, HD): writer Kelly Masterson and stars Rob Lowe, Ginnifer Goodwin, and Jack Noseworthy comment on the lasting impressions left on them by Kennedy family members.
Virginia Promo (0:16, HD): a quick “Virginia Is for Lovers” promotional spot ad.
Ultraviolet: code sheet enclosed in the case
Promo Trailers (HD): Romeo and Juliet, The Book Thief, Homeland: Season Two.
Not nearly as engrossing as last year’s Killing Lincoln, Killing Kennedy offers a quick rundown of the historical facts of the Kennedy Presidency and Lee Oswald’s unhappy adult years but offers no new insights into either.
Overall Rating: 3/5
Reviewed By: Matt Hough
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