In Memoriam 1942 – 2013 “Roger Ebert loved movies.”

RogerEbert.com

Thumb_lucy

Lucy

Scarlett Johansson is an intriguing blank in Luc Besson's "Lucy," which is stranded somewhere between a stranger-in-a-strange-land action thriller and apocalyptic science fiction.

Thumb_hercules

Hercules

Dwayne Johnson tries, but he’s surrounded by poor CGI and a terrible adaptation of yet another comic book. Ian McShane steals what little movie there…

Other Reviews
Review Archives
Thumb_xbepftvyieurxopaxyzgtgtkwgw

Ballad of Narayama

"The Ballad of Narayama" is a Japanese film of great beauty and elegant artifice, telling a story of startling cruelty. What a space it opens…

Thumb_jrluxpegcv11ostmz1fqha1bkxq

Monsieur Hire

Patrice Leconte's "Monsieur Hire" is a tragedy about loneliness and erotomania, told about two solitary people who have nothing else in common. It involves a…

Other Reviews
Great Movie Archives
Other Articles
Life Itself Archives
Other Articles
Channel Archives

Reviews

Executive Action

  |  

When you walk out of “Executive Action,” they give you an eight-page newspaper filled with photographs, charts, footnotes and cross-references to the Warren Report. It’s designed to convince you that the movie’s version of the Kennedy assassination could be true. Indeed it could. It could also be false. Nothing in the movie establishes one or the other. This is essentially a dramatized rewrite of all those old assassination conspiracy books; it borrows from actual newsreel footage of Kennedy, Oswald and Jack Ruby for most of its power.

And it does have power, make no mistake. It has the power, of evoking what will probably remain, for most of us, the most stunning public moment of our lives: the moment when we first learned that the President had been shot.

The media have been filled with recollections for days now, and they’ve been all the more melancholy because, as someone said the other day, it’s beginning to look as if Nov. 22, 1963 was the day things started to go wrong for America. Whether they went wrong on purpose, because of a rightwing plot financed by a Southern millionaire (which is the thesis of “Executive Action”), or whether they went wrong just because of the crazy accident of Lee Harvey Oswald, is something we’ll likely never know. But there’s something exploitative and unseemly in the way this movie takes the real blood and anguish and fits it neatly into a semi-documentary thriller.

That wasn’t the case with Fred Zinnemann’s movie about a plot against De Gaulle, “The Day of the Jackal” (which has finally made it to the Loop after months in the neighborhoods). We knew that was fiction from the beginning; it was well-paced, the characters were brilliantly drawn and we were entertained. But “Executive Action” doesn’t seem much to want to entertain.

The characters are deliberately played in extremely low key, and they talk as if they were reciting peculiarly stiff PR releases. (“The President is planning a motorcade to woo votes,” Robert Ryan is actually forced to say at one point.) No, we’re left with the notion that the men who made this movie really want to convince us of their conspiracy theory,

The story was coauthored by Mark (“Rush to Judgement”) Lane, the screenplay is by old liberal Dalton Trumbo and the colorless direction is by David (“Lonely are the Brave”) Miller. They don’t seem to understand that showing something as it could have happened doesn’t mean it did. The movie doesn’t justify its ending, then. We’re shown the faces of 18 “material witnesses” who died, most of them violently, in the three years after Kennedy’s death. We’re told that an insurance actuary calculated that the odds against all 18 dying before February 1967, were 100,000 trillion to one. Fine. And I guess we’re supposed to walk out of the theater convinced. But . . . not a single one of those 18 “material witnesses” is ever shown in the film.

Popular Blog Posts

Exploring Israel-Palestine through Movies: Part 1

The first part in a four-part series on what film can teach us about the relationship between Israel and Palestine.

Who do you read? Good Roger, or Bad Roger?

This message came to me from a reader named Peter Svensland. He and a fr...

James Garner: 1928-2014

An obituary for the legendary James Garner, who has passed away at the age of 86.

The Wrong Time to Be Talking About Movies: Report From the Jerusalem Film Festival

A report on the atmosphere at the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival and its best film, "Maidan."

Reveal Comments
comments powered by Disqus