A&E // 2009 // 188 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Kent Dixon (Retired) // January 28th, 2010
This is what happened, as it happened.
There are few historical events that have had the impact, lasting legacy, and fascination as the assassination of America's 35th president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. It has now been 47 years since the events of that November day in Dallas, Texas, but the event lives on in the collective memories of not only Americans, but people in countries all over the world. It's likely that if you ask most people about the event, they either remember the day vividly themselves or have learned about it by having the story passed down to them or through archival footage, non-fiction accounts and historical re-enactments.
If you're in the 40-something age bracket like I am, you may think you've seen every possible clip of archival footage from the Zapruder film on down, but I'm fairly confident that JFK: Three Shots That Changed America will prove you wrong. The film pulls from home video footage taken by private citizens, contemporary news reports and B-roll footage, on-the-street interviews and many other sources, to deliver a complete narrative that is literally down to the minute, especially in the early hours and days following the shooting. The feature even includes brief interviews with a handful of the people you'll see in some of the archival footage with which you may already be familiar.
As documentaries go, JFK: Three Shots is incredibly stark. Unlike most documentary features, you won't find dramatic narration, talking head accounts from scientists and experts, or other elements you might expect here. The feature offers no narration of any kind, save for when news anchor footage is used to fill in the blanks or emphasize specific events in the timeline. There is a score, but the music remains largely in the background to maintain tension and a sense of foreboding, as if that was actually needed, given the subject matter. Despite its three hour run time, JFK: Three Shots moves along at a fairly good pace, with the occasional black screen and white lettering inserted to indicate specific dates, times or key events. The feature is also conveniently split into two parts, giving viewers the option of watching the feature in its entirety or in two 90 minute sittings. Part 1 begins with the president's arrival in Texas, continues through the assassination and ends with Lee Harvey Oswald's death; Part 2 picks up from Oswald's death and the resulting investigation, includes the shooting of Senator Robert Kennedy, the burial of both JFK and Oswald, addresses the Warren Report and closes with more contemporary footage.
It's safe to say you've never seen the whole story and certainly not gathered together in a complete chronicle like this. Culled from what seems to be literally hundreds of sources, the audio and video presentation of JFK: Three Shots is all over the map. This is not the kind of presentation that you'll watch for entertainment's sake, but rather as the most comprehensive and painstakingly complete account of JFK's assassination, Lee Harvey Oswald's capture and death at the hands of Jack Ruby, and the events before, during, and since that sad November day. Throughout the feature there's a mix of audio-only content, color and black and white footage, and other source material that, given its age, is in impressive condition.
JFK: Three Shots That Changed America weaves a myriad of archival footage and content together into a macabre and unforgettable tapestry of the last days of one of the greatest political figures the world has ever known.
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Scales of Justice
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 188 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated