Film Review: Parkland

Parkland

Parkland is a historical drama that retains the audience’s attention, although it does not seem to have a strong purpose.

In the day leading up to John F. Kennedy’s visit, the staff at Dallas’ Parkland Hospital are in their usual routines. When disaster strikes, the staff are embroiled in the chaotic events surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy…

In a way, Peter Landesman’s Parkland aims to be the anti-JFK, eschewing conspiracy theory for a recount of the events following Kennedy’s assassination. Based on the book by Vincent Bugliosi, Parkland functions as an attempt to put conspiracy theories to rest.

The film concentrates on a range of characters who have some kind of involvement in the after effects of Kennedy’s shooting. It is interesting to see the Oswald family depicted; often there is not much thought given to these victims in accounts the assassination. The medical staff had an important role to play, but the film reveals nothing except that it was a stressful situation for all involved.

Parkland paints a picture of the immediate crisis, with characters looking for someone to blame. The desperate scramble in the immediate aftermath is portrayed, although this does not engender any real feeling.

The film mixes archive footage for the actual shooting with filmed scenes. It is a wise move for Landesman not to attempt to recreate the event itself. The use of titles to introduce characters attempts to instil some authority, almost to say that this is the definite account of events. The score strives for emotion where there is not much to be found.

Parkland is a decent drama with some good performances, yet it is not wholly satisfying as it fails to venture some kind of viewpoint. The film dips its toe in the political without ever making an actual point.

Parkland is being screened at the BFI London Film Festival in October 2013.

Film Review: Savages

Oliver Stone’s Savages does not feel like an Oliver Stone film. That is not to say that it is a bad film, but merely that it feels like a departure from the director’s best known work.

Best friends Ben and Chon live in Laguna Beach with their girlfriend O, and are known for growing a potent strain of marijuana. When a Mexican cartel wants to move into their territory, the pair are not keen to a make a deal. Ben and Chon are forced into a perilous position when the cartel threatens the thing they both love…

Savages is a crime thriller that remains light for the most part. The film never gives the impression that it is taking itself too seriously. And because of this, it is an enjoyable watch. The pacing of the film accelerates appropriately, although the running time could have been trimmed.

The most striking element of Savages is that it bears little resemblance to earlier Oliver Stone films. Based on Don Winslow’s novel, Stone is also one of the screenplay writers. Yet it feels almost whimsical; a far cry from the weighty drama of JFK or the socio-economic commentary of Wall Street. It is as if Oliver Stone has taken a holiday, brushing aside more serious concerns for a thriller with a tongue-in-cheek attitude.

Much of the lightness is garnered from the dialogue. Savages is narrated by O, whose delivery is inconsequential. Given her age, background and location, this is not surprising. Nevertheless, the dialogue negates any illusions of Savages being a serious crime thriller. At times the film feels more Sweet Valley High than anything else. This is not really a bad thing.

There is some commentary to be found in Savages, regarding the legalisation of marijuana. This takes on an overt appearance, rather than being subtly hinted at. However, this message is delivered concisely, leaving the rest of the film to get on with its purpose of entertaining the viewer.

The villains in Savages are portrayed in a caricature manner, which makes them most enjoyable to watch. Salma Hayek and Benicio Del Toro appear to revel in their roles, offering amusingly over the top characters. Blake Lively, Aaron Johnson and Taylor Kitsch meanwhile are well cast in their straight roles.

Savages may not be to everyone’s taste, but those prepared for the lightness should be entertained. Fans of Stone’s more hard-hitting work may be bemused.