Brow Beat

A JFK Assassination Movie, Minus the Conspiracy Theories

Billy Bob Thornton plays Secret Service agent Forrest Sorrels in Parkland

American Film Company

Parkland, the upcoming ensemble film starring a whole host of familiar Hollywood faces, is based on Vincent Bugliosi’s book Reclaiming History: The Assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Co-produced by Tom Hanks, the film seems less a presidential biopic and more a slow-burn thriller, focusing less on the assassination itself and more on the various, intertwined people at that infamous Dallas motorcade. That, in any case, is the impression left by the first trailer, which hit the Web today.

That cast is certainly the best part of the trailer by far. Paul Giamatti plays Abraham Zapruder, the JFK enthusiast who captured the assassination on film; Billy Bob Thornton and Ron Livingston are agents for the Secret Service and FBI, respectively; Marcia Gay Harden is a nurse at Parkland Memorial Hospital; and Zac Efron, still trying to transcend teen-heartthrob status, plays Jim Carrico, the 28-year-old surgical resident who was the first doctor to examine Kennedy. There’s some eyeroll-inducing screenwriting on display. (“Nice day for a motorcade,” says Ron Livingston at the trailer’s opening. Oh, the irony!) But these actors are distinguished enough to compensate for the inevitable clichés.

There also seems to be a surprising lack of politics in the movie. JFK films have historically dabbled in conspiracy theory and zany commentary, most obviously in Oliver Stone’s entertaining but melodramatic JFK. From the trailer, Parkland seems to shirk any hint of conspiracy in JFK’s assassination, which is refreshing: A straight retelling actually feels like a novel approach. Parkland won’t be the last JFK film this year—Killing Kennedy, with Rob Lowe as the charismatic president, will be released later this year, as will Stephen Gyllenhaal’s The Kennedy Detail—but it looks like the one to watch.