JFK: The Director's Cut

John F Kennedy In Dallas Motorcade

On Friday 22 November 1963 America had its nightmare on Elm Street: in broad daylight on Dallas's Dealey Plaza.

It's haunted the country ever since, and inevitably it's on TV and on DVD this week. You don't need to agree with the findings of Oliver Stone's JFK to admire his 206-minute political epic. It sees the assassination of President Kennedy as a gigantic plot that might involve any permutation of the military industrial complex, the CIA, the FBI, the mafia, anti-Castro Cubans, and a right-wing cabal in New Orleans. The purpose of the plotters was to remove an idealistic president bent on ending America's doomed and costly commitment in South West Asia.

It's a heady aural and visual brew, superbly edited and photographed (Oscars went both to the cinematographer and the editors), and offering what Stone calls an all-star "alternative myth" to the official story. Kevin Costner plays the Capraesque New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, who risked his career and possibly his life to challenge the Warren commission report's conclusion that Lee Harvey Oswald was the lone assassin. It's a courageous, gripping, reckless movie, the apotheosis of the paranoid conspiracy thriller, with a brilliantly sustained central speech by a Deep Throat figure, X (impressively played by Donald Sutherland), who condenses several decades of postwar US history into a persuasive historical argument.

This Blu-ray disc is accompanied by numerous extras, most importantly perhaps Stone's carefully considered full-length commentary. There's also a review of assassination theories and an interview with the White House insider, Colonel Fletcher Prouty, the principal model for the highly experienced soldier "Mr X" who advised both Garrison and Stone (though his testimony should be approached with some caution). The review of current assassination theories does not include the most dubious of the lot – the one in which Kennedy was accidentally killed by George Hickey, a secret service agent in the motorcade.

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Philip French, for The Observer on Sunday 24th November 2013 00.06 Europe/London

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