On November 22nd, 1963, massive crowds gathered at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas hoping to see President John F. Kennedy as his motorcade made its way to the Dallas Trade Mart, where he was scheduled to deliver a speech. However, President Kennedy would never make his final destination that day. As his open-top limousine turned onto Elm Street, three shots rung out over six seconds that would forever change the course of American history – and bring sadness to the hearts of millions.
JFK: The Final Hours
This year marks the 50th anniversary of JFK’s death. It’s a day that many people will always remember, recalling exactly where they were during those last few hours President Kennedy was alive. He had decided to visit Texas to strengthen political support, and had asked his wife Jacqueline to join him, since he would often jokingly say he felt the American populace connected more with her than with him. It was a momentous occasion in those days to have the President of the United States visit your city, and everyone wanted to be there to see him. Young and old, Democrat or Republican, white, black or Hispanic – it didn’t matter to the citizens of Dallas, as thousands lined the downtown streets. A fortunate few even managed to shake JFK’s hand or get a warm smile and a friendly quip from the personable political figure.
One little kid in Ft. Worth, Texas listening to JFK give a speech while sitting on his father’s shoulders was then 8 -year-old Bill Paxton (Twister), and it’s Paxton who narrates JFK: The Final Hours, as the documentary somberly traces the last 36 hours of JFK’s life. The NatGeo-produced documentary uses archival footage as well as first-hand accounts from people who were there on that day – although they’re now 50 years older.
The documentary is very much a “love story” focused more on JFK’s admirers than the man himself, and as such, it occasionally suffers from slow pacing. When the women talk about their experience with JFK – most of them were starry-eyed teenagers in 1963 – it’s a lot of “He was so handsome” statements; meanwhile the men, who were mostly children during that time, talk about how incredible a man he was in person. There’s nothing wrong with idol worship, but it does get repetitive about 30 minutes into the movie.
For history buffs and JFK enthusiasts, the film is an interesting look at how much he meant to so many people from different walks of life. One of the most interesting things about the film is writer/director Erik Nelson’s use of photos from the past, juxtaposed with recent photos of various locations, using a slicing technique. It makes the film very appealing, visually. While there is quite a lot of interesting information presented in JFK: The Final Hours, it feels stretched out in order to make it a full two hours – when a 1 hour special airing in front of Killing Kennedy would have been perfect.