Thirty years after the release of Oliver Stone's 'JFK', the director returns to Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas and the investigation into the murder of US President John F. Kennedy. Utilising newly-declassified documents, fresh insight from authors, and narration from Whoopi Goldberg and Donald Sutherland, Oliver Stone examines the new evidence surrounding arguably the most famous assassination in US history since Abraham Lincoln...
In the years since 'JFK' was released in cinemas, our view of conspiracy theories has changed dramatically. Oliver Stone, to his credit, made it quite clear in interviews around the time of its release that he was not offering up cold, hard evidence of a conspiracy theory, but rather a "counter-myth" to the one he felt was published by the Warren Commission. There's a scene, in the 1991 movie, where Donald Sutherland's nameless character blows the case wide open for Kevin Costner's all-American lawyer, Jim Garrison. Sutherland's character spins up a terrific yarn about his work in black ops, misinformation, how he helped get Nazis out of Germany to work for NASA, the failure at the Bay of Pigs, and then ties it all into the murder of JFK. Before dizzying the audience and Kevin Costner's character, he lays out a famous line. "Oswald, Ruby, Cuba, The Mafia, keeps 'em guessing like some kind of parlor game, prevents 'em from asking the most important question: why? Why was Kennedy Killed? Who benefited? Who has the power to cover it up? Who?"
It's been 30 years since that scene, and a further 58 years since the real-life assassination. The dawn of the internet and social media has allowed conspiracy theories to fester to a point where we now have misinformation destroying the very fabric of society, and where journalists are routinely accused of plying their trade on behalf of greater interests and not crusading for the truth. Nobody is in any doubt that the murder of JFK was shady, or that there was probably some kind of plot to kill him in broad daylight and pin the whole thing on Lee Harvey Oswald. To that end, 'JFK Revisited' offers up no substantial difference from the generally accepted views of today. What it does instead is walk through a number of very dull interviews with authors of various JFK books, slices in some documentary news footage, a scene or two from his own movie, and then offers up a couple of stray observations along the way.
The information contained in the documentary zeroes in on specific items pertaining to the assassination and the aftermath. There's an animation that details how it was impossible for Oswald to have made it down the flight of stairs, and points to two eyewitnesses who saw him on the stairs. Allen Dulles, the former head of the CIA and member of the Warren Commission, is the subject of various criticisms, as is the investigation and autopsy of JFK's assassination by the FBI and the subsequent Warren Commission. In comparison to the original movie, 'JFK Revisited' feels less like a companion piece and more like a DVD extra (remember those?!) that you'd see on an Extended Edition.
The interviewees themselves are answering in well-mannered tones, with a plain background and Oliver Stone asking respectful questions. When you think back to 'JFK', there's no Joe Pesci with half a wig on his head spouting about riddles wrapped in enigmas, nor does it have any of the cinematic flourishes of the original. To that end, it's hard to understand who 'JFK Revisited' is really for, beyond Oliver Stone's own personal interest and aggrandisement. If it's for conspiracy theory nuts, they'll get very little out of this that isn't already doing the rounds on Facebook. If it's for people who were enthralled by the 1991 classic, it throws out all of the wild-eyed energy and sweat-soaked paranoia in favour of dull, listless interviews that attempt to give it an air of credibility.
While 'JFK Revisited' does have some points to make and its conclusions about the impact that JFK's murder had on global geopolitics, it can't be said that it's remotely as enthralling or compelling as 'JFK' was.