This starry drama has documentary realism going for it, although without a single well-developed character it never finds any resonance. By recounting JFK's assassination from a variety of previously unseen angles, we learn some new things about that fateful day in November 1963. Oddly, the script doesn't even focus on the hospital that gives the film its name. That might have helped give the film some focus.
We watch the shooting in Dallas through the eyes of Abraham Zapruder (Giamatti), famously the only person to capture the event on film. He is immediately contacted by a Secret Service agent (Thornton), who helps him process the film and make copies. Meanwhile at Parkland Hospital, two residents (Efron and Hanks) and a tenacious nurse (Harden) are working against the odds to save Kennedy's life. And elsewhere, an FBI agent (Livingston) is following the trail of the shooter, whose brother and mother (Dale and Weaver) have very different reactions to what has just happened.
Writer-director Landesman jumps straight into the events without properly establishing the characters. But it's impossible to feel emotion when we don't know anything about the people we're watching, and we can't feel suspense when we know what's going to happen. So we're left to soak up the details, which are often fascinating (ever wonder how to get a coffin into a plane?). And while the actors are good enough to play the intensity of each scene for all it's worth, the only ones who register with us are Giamatti and Dale, because what their characters go through is more complex than we expect.
It would have been much more effective to simply focus on the hospital and let us learn something about these doctors, nurses and most intriguingly the priest (Haley) who feature strongly at two points over the period of time the film covers. But even if it doesn't work as a drama, this finely crafted film has educational and historical value for the way it dramatises this massively important event. And it serves as a potent reminder of how much the world has changed in just 50 years.
Run time: 93 mins
In Theaters: Wednesday 2nd October 2013
Box Office USA: $0.7M
Distributed by: Exclusive Releasing
Production compaines: Exclusive Media Group, Playtone, American Film Company
Contactmusic.com: 2.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 49%
Fresh: 58 Rotten: 61
IMDB: 6.3 / 10
Director: Peter Landesman
Screenwriter: Peter Landesman
Starring: Zac Efron as Jim Carrico, Billy Bob Thornton as Forrest Sorrels, Ron Livingston as James Hosty, Tom Welling as Roy Kellerman, Paul Giamatti as Abraham Zapruder, Colin Hanks as Dr. Malcom Perry, Marcia Gay Harden as Doris Nelson, Jacki Weaver as Marguerite Oswald, Jackie Earle Haley as Father Oscar Huber, James Badge Dale as Robert Oswald, Mark Duplass as Kenneth O'Donnell, Gil Bellows as David Powers, Matt Barr as Paul Mikkelson
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