James Badge Dale (Shame), Zac Efron (17 Again), Jackie Earle Haley (Watchmen), Colin Hanks (King Kong), David Harbour (The Green Hornet), Marcia Gay Harden (Pollock), Ron Livingston (Office Space), Jeremy Strong (Zero Dark Thirty), Billy Bob Thornton (Bad Santa), Jacki Weaver (Silver Linings Playbook), Tom Welling (Smallville), Paul Giamatti (Sideways)


Peter Landesman (film debut), director, writer; Gary Goetzman (Charlie Wilson’s War), Tom Hanks (Forrest Gump), Matt Jackson (End of Watch), Bill Paxton (Aliens) and Nigel Sinclair (Snitch), producers; James Newton Howard (The Village), composer; Barry Ackroyd (The Hurt Locker), cinematographer; Marcus Czyzewski (film debut) and Leo Trombetta (Little Children), editors


On 22nd November 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated. Amidst the chaos surrounding the shooting, we focus on how several people – the doctors and nurses at Parkland county hospital (Efron, Hanks and Harden), members of the Secret Service (Thornton and Welling), a man who unwittingly caught the shooting on tape (Giamatti), the heartbroken brother (Dale) of shooter Lee Harvey Oswald (Strong) and JFK’s members of security – dealt with the aftermath…


It’s fascinating how this weekend there are two 50th anniversaries to commemorate, but although Doctor Who’s might overshadow it in some respects by far the most historically significant is the assassination of John F. Kennedy in Dallas, Texas. Five decades on and we’ve had everything to do with the aftermath of the tragedy, including those pesky conspiracy theories as detailed in Oliver Stone’s JFK. But amazingly, not many films have centred around the lives of so many people on that actual day of 22nd November 1963.

Parkland is now one of those films, taking a dramatic angle not dissimilar to Emilio Estevez’s Bobby (incidentally, another film about an assassinated Kennedy). By showing the reactions of ordinary civilians and those that were close enough to the President, newcomer writer-director Peter Landesman makes for interesting discussions and revealing anecdotes about who they really are. It’s also down to star producers Tom Hanks and Bill Paxton to make a film that many Americans would likely rather not see and make it at least compelling to watch, although that first part doesn’t sound as strong when you take into account its commercial failure and hushed critical reaction upon its American release last month.

Still, there is a strong ensemble cast lined up to make sure the film at least has some effective star power. Zac Efron may be a name people might cringe over, given his former teen-idol status and recently highlighted drug problems, but he has surprisingly found some inner talents as a convincing serious actor and is certain to continue the trend here. We also get appearances from character actors Billy Bob Thornton, Marcia Gay Harden, James Badge Dale, Jackie Earle Haley, and Paul “I don’t have a third name like the others” Giamatti, adding even more gravitas to this re-enactment of such a stinging American tragedy.

While the assassination remains a major landmark in 20th century American history, it still remains a challenge even today to find an audience who actually seems interested in a dramatic recounting of the real-time events. In all fairness, the killing of a US President is not something that should be celebrated anyway. But Parkland manages to capture the events and lives of people reacting to Kennedy’s death well enough to warrant a release on the exact date fifty years later. Let’s just hope it portrays the events delicately and in fond memory of a courageous Cold War-era President.