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"To sin by silence when we should protest makes cowards of men."
—Ella Wheeler Wilcox
JFK is a 1991 film written and directed by Oliver Stone about the assassination of John F. Kennedy and its aftermath, based around the investigation by New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner). After reading the Warren Report and finding it unsatisfactory, Garrison decides to launch an investigation on his own. After reviewing witness reports and interviewing some people on his own, Garrison becomes convinced Kennedy was killed by a conspiracy, and that all of the suspicious events seem to be circling a Texas Businessman named Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones) who goes by the alias Clay Bertrand. Shaw has connections to Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman), the CIA, the FBI, and others.
After his case gains publicity, Garrison is invited to Washington, D.C. for a confidential meeting. The man (Donald Sutherland), who goes only by the name "X", says that Garrison is closer to the truth than he thinks, and gives him background information regarding his suspicions that JFK was killed by a conspiracy involving the CIA, the military, and business interests (the "Military-Industrial Complex") in order to, among other things, stop him from bringing The Vietnam War and the Cold War to an end.
Invigorated by this new information, Garrison arrests Shaw for conspiracy and puts him on trial, detailing his entire theory about the assassination and the various inconsistencies with the "official story", most famously the theory of the "magic bullet". Despite his passionate push at the trial (and, as was later revealed, the belief by jury members that there was a conspiracy) Shaw is acquitted of all charges.
The film was and still is intensely controversial for its liberal use of Artistic License in depicting the events of and around Garrison's investigation, when in reality the movie is not meant to be the definitive investigation into Kennedy's death, but rather an allegory of the general public's frustration over not knowing the actual truth about the assassination.
Based on the books On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and Crossfire by Jim Marrs.
- All-Star Cast: Kevin Costner, Sissy Spacek, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Ed Asner, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Gary Oldman, Laurie Metcalf, Jay O'Sanders, John Candy, Kevin Bacon, John Larroquette, Martin Sheen, and others.
- This leads to the odd casting of The Odd Couple without either actor ever interacting with each other.
- Arc Words: "Operation Mongoose"
- Artistic License History: Let's just say that the film takes a very "liberal" look at what happened, and leave it at that.
- Bay of Pigs Invasion: According to the film, the failure of this and the political fallout that followed may have been first push in what eventually became a conspiracy to assassinate Kennedy.
- Camp Gay: Clay Shaw. Garrison's wife even questions whether he is going after Shaw because he is gay at one point.
- Casting Gag: The real Jim Garrison plays Chief Justice Earl Warren (a.k.a. the man who created the Warren Report officially referring to Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone shooter).
- Cluster F-Bomb: Joe Pesci, naturally.
- Cold War
- Composite Character: Several, including Willie, the male prostitute played by Kevin Bacon. (See here for details.)
- Corrupt Corporate Executive: Another part of the alleged conspiracy. Clay Shaw is a literal example.
- Doing It for the Art: Oliver Stone poured his heart and soul into this movie, going out of his way to make sure everything appeared exactly as he wanted it. A great example is his meticulously detailed set of the White House's Oval Office, which cost about $70,000 to complete, yet it only appears in about eight seconds of the film.
- The movie was shot largely on location, including Dealy Plaza in Dallas and the actual book depository where Lee Harvey Oswald (allegedly) shot Kennedy.
- Fake American: Brit Gary Oldman as the Louisiana-born Lee Harvey Oswald
- Flame Bait: Both the film itself and the in-universe subject matter.
- The Ghost: Kennedy, obviously.
- Government Conspiracy: "X" and (eventually) Garrison, believe this is part of what killed Kennedy.
- It's Always Mardi Gras in New Orleans: One of Garrison's investigators interviews an informant during a Mardi Gras parade.
- Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Near the end of his monologue, Mr. X says "Don't take my word for it- don't believe me. Do your own work, your own thinking.
- Loads and Loads of Characters: And even more in the Directors Cut
- The Mafia: Another possible contributor to the assassination and cover-up.
- Mr. Exposition: "X" and Garrison. X's monologue lasts over 15 minutes, and Garrison's closing statement at the trial lasts over 20. And yet, thanks to Oliver Stone's direction, it never feels slow.
- Narrator: Martin Sheen narrates the opening montage.
- Off on a Technicality: Much of the information about Clay Shaw is thrown out (particularly the fact that he used the alias "Clay Bertrand" while participating in his shady deals) because he didn't have a lawyer present while he was being booked. The movie points out that this ruling wasn't legally sound, and implies that it may have been part of the Government Conspiracy to keep Shaw from being convicted.
- One-Scene Wonder: Donald Sutherland as X.
- Playing Against Type: One of the few dramatic roles played by John Candy, as a beatnik lawyer connected to the conspiracy. The nervous sweat you see on his face is real, as the thought of acting in a dramatic film opposite such heavyweight actors as Donald Sutherland and Gary Oldman scared Candy shitless.
- Politically-Correct History: Averted. The film makes it quite clear that Kennedy was not popular in the South. Some people are actually seen cheering when they heard that he has been assassinated.
- In addition, the movie doesn't portray Kennedy as being a saint, either. He's said to fund military development only in districts he needs to win his next election, willing to negotiate and compromise with the USSR, and is shown to have major distrust in the intelligence agency.
- Posthumous Character: Oswald dies soon after the movie begins, but that doesn't prevent him from appearing in a large number of flashbacks and faux documentary footage.
- Properly Paranoid: Jim Garrison starts feeling paranoid about what he's getting into even before he finds bugs planted in his offices. Possibly David Ferrie, too, though Your Mileage May Vary.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: When shooting a flashback to visualize a character seeing smoke come from a rifle at "the grassy knoll" during the shooting, Oliver Stone had to use a smoke machine because the modern rifle they were using didn't emit enough smoke.
- Rewind, Replay, Repeat: One of the most famous examples during Garrison's closing statement, when he puts the shot of Kennedy being shot in the head on a loop to emphasize the direction:
"Back, and to the left. Back, and to the left. Back, and to the left"
- Shout-Out/To Shakespeare: "One may smile, and smile, and be a villain"
- "Like Ceasar, he is surrounded by enemies..."
- Spiritual Successor: Nixon, which also features the JFK assassination as subtext.
- Straight Gay: David Ferrie
- Those Two Guys: The fifth movie to feature both Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, but the only one where they never share a scene.
- The Vietnam War
- What Might Have Been: Harrison Ford and Mel Gibson were Oliver Stone's first choices for the role of Jim Garrison.
- Who Shot JFK?: The Movie.