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It’s not just the attentive detail to the emergency medical and law enforcement angles that propel the movie. Paul Giamatti plays a shattered Abraham Zapruder, the Dallas dressmaker who inadvertently provided the iconic film record of the assassination as it played out in real time. Zapruder’s attempt to work with the Secret Service to safely process the film shows how nothing was simple that day.
In Landesman’s hands, even developing film is a harrowing journey, fraught with peril.
It’s also about as far from the conspiracy theories surrounding Kennedy’s slaying as one can get, yet it’s just as compelling.
Landesman described Bugliosi’s book as “a blueprint of data” that set his course.
“I became obsessed and went on kind of a three-year journey of investigating, uncovering, shining a light, finding documents, finding interviews. Nothing classified, nothing spooky, nothing Oliver Stoney, and just shit that no one was paying attention to, and realized: We are missing the real story the whole time. We’re missing the more potent, the more authentic and, frankly, the more shocking story, which also happens to be the truth.”
Landesman’s journey from journalism to filmmaking was an “organic” process, he said. He was a painter, “before I was any kind of writer,” and he always knew he wanted to eventually make films. The Watergate screenplay he wrote for Tom Hanks’ production company obviously opened doors, and he sees the skills he learned in journalism as key to his path.
“The reporting I did as a journalist was really heavy. And really dark. ... There aren’t a lot of places I haven’t been, both in terms of human nature and geographically, and I think that gives me, it gave me, kind of credibility with the cast and with the financiers,” he said.Bringing Out the Dead
Once the medical and law enforcement emergencies passed, in both real life and the film, it was time to take stock and to bury the dead. Oswald was killed by Jack Ruby on Nov. 24, 1963, and he died at virtually the same time of day as Kennedy at, of all places, Parkland.
The president and Oswald were also buried around the same time on the same day, but halfway across the country from one another and under much different circumstances.
The film focuses on the Oswald funeral. In doing so, it firmly lays the weight of the story on Oswald’s brother Robert, played by James Badge Dale.
After all the horror and shock of the days past, Robert simply tries to bury his brother with dignity, something that won’t come easily.
The funeral is a scene of immense pathos, and the flat light and pitch-perfect acting of Dale carry the viewer to a place that is unpredictable, slightly uncomfortable and absolutely original.
The real Robert Oswald still lives in Dallas and is in his eighties.