PictureJFK shoots its way onto BluRay at a correct 2.40:1, using the VC-1 codec at 1080p and it's a superb looking transfer. The film though implements a variety of styles and the quality of this transfer may not be immediately apparent. There are flash backs or original archive footage, the Zapruder footage or shots of Vietnam, and these are grainy affairs; the archive footage naturally so the flash backs intentionally filmed that way for stylistic effect. Still these scenes are a faithful reproduction of what I remember seeing in the cinema all those years ago.
The film and style progresses the further you get into it with early shots somewhat desaturated, look at the the bar where Garrison watches the television coverage of Kennedy's death or interrogation of David Ferrie in Garrison's office for instance. The second is almost sepia like with colour bled from the screen but even scenes such as these offer a great amount of detail, the first almost black and white in its representation with only the barest hint of colour available. As mentioned though the colour pallette itself is broadened as the film progresses, The flight above Washington, Oswald in the garden with his children, Mr X. in the park all of these have beautiful, perfectly rendered swathes of colour and add a dimensionality not apparent in these earlier scenes.
Contrast though is excellent throughout with good shadow detail in both Garrison's office, his home, the restaurants and bars he frequents in his investigation. Blooming is never apparent even when stark objects are placed on screen against the bright skies. This contrast allows some excellent detail to come to the fore and there are objects on Garrison's desks which I had not noticed in earlier DVD releases of this feature. The encoding is exemplary with only the barest hint of some enhancement on some shoulders every now and again but it is so fleeting that it really isn't worth bothering about.
By far this is the best version of this film and to date this is my third copy, it eclipses my earlier standard R2 release and my directors cut R1. A worthy upgrade.
SoundWarner offer their usual standard Dolby Digital 5.1 track and it's no slouch but to get the best out of this audio then you really do have to kick in the TrueHD variety. From the get go you have better spatial separation up front and the amount of detail in the background score is incredible.
The snare drums up front on the opening scenes as archive footage shows JFK arriving in Dallas is wonderfully reproduced and distinct from each left and right channel. There is a great amount of fine detail in the background score, some orchestrated by Williams and some from the Foley track. Listen to the interrogation of David Ferrie and whilst he is recounting his lies of duck hunting you can hear in the background faint crickets as though he is trying to construct in his own mind the scene is is trying to create.
There is little LFE usage, not that that's a problem per se but there is some ambiance to the surrounds which gives the user a more immersive experience; the motorcade as it travels down the Dallas streets, the echo of gunfire, the flock of birds or weather effects all contribute to a subtle experience without you moving your head to find out what's coming from where. Steerage at the front again predominantly from motorcades is handled well with perfect timing.
Dialogue is superb. There are many very important discussions throughout this feature and not one syllable is lost, there will be no need to rewind to hear what's being said. Much like the video this is the best I have ever heard JFK and another testament to what these new high definition codecs are capable of.
- Commentary with Oliver Stone.
Stone always produces some pretty decent commentaries and this has to be one of the best of them and it's interesting from a number of viewpoints. First he discusses some of the actors in specific scenes, what advice he gave them for their particular roles, how he enjoyed their performances and at times how their portrayals amused him. The main thrust though of this commentary is trying to relate the events on screen to the events which happened in real life and the real characters who lived through them. He does admit that he has amalgamated some characters and some artistic license he took with certain scenes so at least he's honest. He comes across a little bitter and/or bemused that this could have happened within his country and who may have been responsible for the assassination. It's a worthwhile listen even at almost four hours and comes recommended.
- Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy. - 01:30:01 - 480i/VC1
A good enough documentary on the assassination. Some of the cast are interviewed asking where they were on that day, some members of the public who were in Dealey on the day. This is not just about the actual assassination though, more a symbiosis between actual events and the making of the film and some of the criticism Stone endured when making and releasing this film.
- Deleted Scenes. - 0:54:55 - 480i/VC1
Some 12 scenes which were removed or altered for the final cut of JFK These can be played individually or en masse with or without a commentary by Stone. There's some good scenes here, some of which should have been left in the film; however the running time of this director's cut probably makes re-insertion of these scenes unlikely. Stone indicates why these scenes never made it into the final draft and his reasons for initially shooting them.
- Assassination Update: The New Documents. - 0:29:40 - 480i/VC1
A recent documentary which reveals some of the information which has surfaced not only since the investigation in the late 70s but also since the release of JFK in 1991. It's an interesting enough watch to see if only how the American machine was stirred into action by this film.
- Meet Mr. X.: The Personality & Thoughts of Fletcher Prouty. - 0:11:01 - 480i/VC1
The Donald Sutherland character, Mr. X., is believed to have been based on one Fletcher Prouty. He gives some insight into the period of time, the machinations of the American army, the black operations which he was involved in. This is a fascinating watch unfortunately cut far too short.
- Original Trailer.
As the name suggests.
My original R2 DVD release was pretty bare bones which is why I opted eventually for the R1 two disc edition which not only contained the director's cut but which included the same extras as we're given here. As a set is enjoyable, especially that commentary by Stone, but I would still have liked to have seen one of the numerous JFK assassination documentaries out there included. It's also a shame that some of the extras included on the day/date release of the new DVD are not included here; the Kennedy documentary and his inaugural speech for instance. Even if there were no room on the disc then a supplemental DVD would not have gone amiss for those.
In saying that though, this has the small DigiBook booklet which is a worthwhile read in itself and in my own opinion a superb way of presenting these new BluRay discs.
VerdictJFK has it's flaws and those flaws are a massaging of history, but I don't personally feel that the massage is enough to immediately dismiss this piece of work, only sufficient for Stone and Garrison to get their points across. Prior to and after it's release it was attacked for this interpretation of events but really the film didn't deserve that kind of ridicule. Stone is obviously passionate about John Kennedy, his presidency, his ambitions, his aims and his untimely demise; you can see and hear that passion in his words on the commentary and his interviews in the JFK documentary.
For me it's a riveting piece of work, with Stone trying to show us how Garrison tried to put together the first pieces of evidence that there was in fact some sort of conspiracy going on behind closed doors; too many things just didn't add up in his mind and Stone has done well to get that investigation and frustration across and onto our screens.
As a set it is better than earlier DVD releases, yet somewhat of a let down because it doesn't contain all of the extras on the new DVD release. In saying that though you're unlikely to ever get any better video or audio from this film and both contribute to an engaging watch, both being far superior to what has gone before. JFK is perhaps only bettered by Platoon but this disc set still comes very highly recommended.
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- Commentary with Oliver Stone.