Tag Archives: Joe Pesci

The Irishman (2019) Review

Time: 209 Minutes
Age Rating: 2773-o[1] Violence, cruelty & offensive language
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Frank “The Irishman” Sheeran
Al Pacino as James Riddle “Jimmy” Hoffa
Joe Pesci as Russell Bufalino
Ray Romano as Bill Bufalino
Bobby Cannavale as Felix “Skinny Razor” DiTullio
Anna Paquin as Peggy Sheeran
Stephen Graham as Anthony “Tony Pro” Provenzano
Harvey Keitel as Angelo Bruno
Jesse Plemons as Chuckie O’Brien
Director: Martin Scorsese

In the 1950s, truck driver Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro) gets involved with Russell Bufalino (Joe Pesci) and his Pennsylvania crime family. As Sheeran climbs the ranks to become a top hitman, he also goes to work for Jimmy Hoffa (Al Pacino) – a powerful Teamster tied to organised crime.

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The Irishman wasn’t just my most anticipated movie of 2019, it was also one of my most anticipated movies ever. The trio of actors of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci all working together was already fantastic, but additionally it was for a gangster movie, and one directed by Martin Scorsese no less. I’ve been hearing about this film being in development for years, and that it had problems being made, mostly because no studio wanted to finance it. I didn’t know whether it would end up being made, neither did De Niro and Scorsese, who were really pushing for it. But after long last, it finally happened and I couldn’t wait to see it. In the past couple of weeks, I’ve been going through almost all of Scorsese’s filmography, watching those I haven’t seen beforehand, and re-watching those that I’ve already seen (barring a few) in anticipation. The Irishman is an incredible movie in every regard, incredibly ambitious, but Scorsese and co. really delivered on something special, one of the highlights of the decade for sure.

The Irishman is based on a biography called I Heard You Paint Houses (which as it turns out, was the title which opens up the film), so it’s at least mostly based on real facts and events. Much has already been said about the very long runtime of The Irishman. The longest that Scorsese’s feature films have run was around 3 hours for Casino and The Wolf of Wall Street. The Irishman on the other hand is at 3 and a half hours long, and that certainly sounds intimidating. I wouldn’t say that it flies by and that you don’t feel the length at all. However, it does a lot to keep your attention. The movie actually managed to not be boring, it’s just that you feel overwhelmed by the length and the amount of things going on. There’s a lot to take in, and I’m sure that the movie definitely gets better and better the more you watch it. I will say that although the first half is pretty good, it’s the second half where it really picks up. At that point, there are a lot of moving pieces and rising tensions. In the first half or at least the first third, The Irishman seems like standard Scorsese gangster stuff. That’s not necessarily a bad thing however, as even standard Scorsese gangster territory is pretty great.

Plenty of people who hear the premise but haven’t been looking into it might just think that The Irishman is just another Scorsese mob movie. However it’s much more than that. Goodfellas and Casino are very fast paced, and focusses a lot on the excess and thrills. With The Irishman, gone is the thrill from the environment, the money and the violence. Even the violence (even though it’s not nearly as graphic as his other gangster movies) are without any possible enjoyment, portraying it as what it is, very ugly and unpleasant, and not stylised at all. This story is from the perspective of an aging and dying man, looking back at his life as how it was, with plenty of regrets. Not to mention that lead character Frank Sheeran already operated like a machine or soldier basically, taking no pleasure in the crimes that he had to carry out. So, this is definitely new territory for Martin Scorsese to play within. This is a movie that technology aside, Scorsese couldn’t make back in the 90s amidst his other gangster movies. It required an older man’s handle of the whole story, and he handled it all pretty much perfectly. And for those who still believe that Scorsese somehow endorses their flawed (to say the least) gangster protagonists and their lifestyles, I don’t even see how they’d be able to make that criticism for The Irishman. For a movie that can be sad and dark, it actually has quite a lot of effective humour throughout. The script by Steven Zaillian is really great, with some effective and memorable dialogue, with plenty of interesting things going on. The last hour takes quite a sombre turn, and the last half an hour in particular is particularly sad, as the consequences of everything that Frank has done finally catches up with him. The final shot of the movie in particular is effectively crushing.

For the acting, let’s start with the main trio of actors. Robert De Niro plays Frank Sheeran, a hitman and the titular Irishman. He’s on screen for almost all of the movie and follows him throughout his life. With that said, the movie doesn’t necessarily do a whole lot of exploring of the character, and it’s on purpose. De Niro gives an incredibly subtle performance, he’s not as distinct as you’d think, and does at times almost seems like he is overshadowed by the cast surrounding him. However this seems to be the point, this is type of person that Sheeran was in real life. This is one of De Niro’s best performances, especially within the last hour, where he delivers some truly heartbreaking work. Al Pacino plays Jimmy Hoffa, and this is the best performance I’ve seen from him since the late 90s. Yes it’s showy and loud, and very much like some of his over the top performances in the 90s like in Heat, however that seems to fit Jimmy Hoffa, and he seems to have effectively captured the personality and character of Hoffa. Pacino isn’t just shouting the whole time, he also gives quite an emotional centre to his performance as well, especially with his very close connections to Sheeran, and also Sheeran’s daughter Peggy. Joe Pesci had been in retirement for years, so it’s amazing seeing him back on screen again, and he’s still got it. His other collaborations with Martin Scorsese have been angry, violent and profane filled characters, especially with their gangster movies together. This time his character of Russell Bufalino is a mob boss, who was known in real life as ‘The Quiet Don’, and he’s a lot more subtle here. He’s very controlled, calm and gave the impression of a man who carefully selects every word before he speaks. He actually comes across as friendly, and his friendship with Sheeran feels very genuine. At the same time there’s still a coldness that can be seen within him, and you never forget how dangerous he is. A lot of people cite Goodfellas as his best performance, I’ve always considered his work in Casino to be better. However after seeing this movie, I do believe that his performance as Bufalino is the best work of his career, and if this is indeed the last film that he acts in, then this is the perfect point to end it on.

The rest of the supporting cast is also good, with the likes of Ray Ramano, Bobby Cannavali, Jesse Plemons, and Harvey Keitel showing up briefly and doing some good work in their scenes. Stephen Graham is also a notable player during the movie, as Tony Provenzano, a notable Teamster, whose conflicts with Jimmy Hoffa play a part in the story. Graham was a scene stealer, and more than holds his own against actors like Al Pacino. Much has been said about the lack of female characters, and that the most prominent female character doesn’t have a lot of lines. That character is that of one of Frank Sheeran’s daughters in Peggy, played by Lucy Gallina as the younger version and Anna Paquin as the adult version. It’s been flying around that Paquin basically only had one line in the movie, and talking about her that way is a disservice to the movie, and to the performances. I’ve heard plenty of people saying that she could’ve been removed from the movie and you wouldn’t notice, I couldn’t disagree more. She might not be consistently focussed on like Jimmy Hoffa was in the movie, but she’s nonetheless a constant and significant presence throughout the movie. You don’t get to really know what kind of person Peggy is, because Frank doesn’t know who she is, he wasn’t close with her. What he does remember however are her looks towards him, and those looks are very telling and memorable, as she very clearly knows what he does for a living. The performances by the two actors is incredibly subtle yet powerful, as they convey so much with just a single glance.

Martin Scorsese directs this film excellently as expected. Sure, at first it’s not as crazy as Goodfellas and Casino, but that’s not just because he’s getting old and can’t do that or anything of the sort. His direction feels deliberately restrained, which was absolutely perfect for this movie. As previously mentioned, it doesn’t have a focus on excess and the violence is not stylised at all. Some can talk about how the colour palette isn’t remarkable, I just personally mark up that up to being the fact that it’s an old man looking back at his life through that lens. The cinematography on the whole was great, and Scorsese’s camera movements are remarkable, definitely a master of his craft. Even though his direction is definitely restrained, that’s not to say that The Irishman is without some style. Additionally, when some characters are introduced, text flashes on screen with their name, and how they died and when. Thelma Schoonmaker’s editing is great as usual, and The Irishman ranks amongst her best work on a Scorsese film. Without an editor at her calibre, this movie would feel even longer than it is, but she keeps everything moving from scene to scene. The music is well picked and fits the scenes they are placed in, as per usual for Scorsese. However unlike Casino and Goodfellas (noticing a trend here?), they aren’t quite as memorable, and are much more quieter, appropriate for the movie. Much of the musical highlights of the movie comes from the score by Robbie Robertson, whose score is great throughout. The main theme especially is sinister, and fits perfectly with the tone of the movie. Fittingly, The Irishman utilises silence very well, allowing for the characters to reflect and contemplate.

Time to address the elephant in the room, the CGI used for the de-aging or youthificiation of the main cast. I should note that I saw this on a screen at home on Netflix, not in a large cinema, and from that situation I definitely noticed a lot less problems through that experience. With that said, I’d say that it’s the best use of de-aging I’ve seen in a movie. Even the best use of de-aging in movies I’ve seen like in Blade Runner 2049, they’ve used it in brief moments and not for the entire movie. The closest was with Samuel L. Jackson in Captain Marvel, who was de-aged from start to finish. However The Irishman is a whole other level, with actors nearly in their 80s that need to look as young as their 30s or 40s at least. I know some people said that it would’ve been better to just cast younger actors for the parts, but considering that the entire film is about growing old, that wouldn’t have worked at all. The delay of making the movie if anything was a blessing, because by the time they made it, the de-aging technology had advanced much more than in the early 2010s. The CGI on Al Pacino and Joe Pesci looked pretty much perfect and seamless. In fact there’s a moment where Pesci looks like he was ripped out of the 90s, it was incredibly uncanny. Out of the 3 main leads, it was De Niro that suffered the most, in that early on looked it wasn’t quite perfect. It wasn’t bad it just seemed a little off. With that said, it didn’t bother me as much as it seemed to bother others, I wasn’t too distracted by it. Even if you are distracted by it, you settle into the movie relatively quickly. There is only one complaint I have about the de-aging, and it’s not about the visual effects, but more the movement of the actors. Obviously, they have to make it look like they’re younger men through the way they sit, walk, etc, and a lot of attention has definitely been put towards that, that’s great and all. Occasionally though, you’ll get a scene where you really see the actor’s age. The biggest example is a scene where Sheeran/De Niro beats up a guy in the first half an hour of the movie, the scene is captured mostly in a wide shot and his movements are clearly from a man in his mid 70s and it kind of took me out of the scene. So there are a few scenes where they probably could’ve handled it a little better, but thankfully it doesn’t happen too often.

The Irishman is yet another fantastic film from Martin Scorsese, and is firmly one of his all time best achievements. It’s restrained, reflective, and devastating, featuring great performances, especially from the of Robert De Niro, Al Pacino and Joe Pesci, giving some of the best performances of their careers. There is a lot to take in with this movie, and I definitely intend to revisit it within the next month or so. If you can watch it on the big screen, take that opportunity. You don’t necessarily need to see it in a cinema to love it however, I really loved it with my setup. However if you do it in this way, even if you take a break during viewing, I implore you to not watch this movie over a number of days or anything. It may a Netflix movie but it doesn’t mean that it’s a mini series, it’s meant to be seen as a movie. With that aside, The Irishman sits firmly as one of the all time best films of the year thus far.

Raging Bull (1980) Review

Time: 129 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Jake LaMotta
Joe Pesci as Joey LaMotta
Cathy Moriarty as Vickie LaMotta
Nicholas Colasanto as Tommy Como
Director: Martin Scorsese

When Jake LaMotta (Robert De Niro) steps into a boxing ring and obliterates his opponent, he’s a prizefighter. But when he treats his family and friends the same way, he’s a ticking time bomb, ready to go off at any moment. Though LaMotta wants his family’s love, something always seems to come between them. Perhaps it’s his violent bouts of paranoia and jealousy. This kind of rage helped make him a champ, but in real life, the winds up in the ring alone.

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3 years after a movie known as one of his weakest with New York, New York, Martin Scorsese made one of the best films of his career. I had been meaning to give Raging Bull a rewatch for some time as it’s been years since I’ve seen it for the first time, and with my recent viewing of many of Scorsese’s films, there was no better time. Raging Bull nearly 40 years later remains an absolutely masterful, if hard to watch, film.

Raging Bull may be about a boxer but the boxing itself isn’t the focus of the movie. It’s about real life boxer Jake LaMotta and his self destructive life. Saying that Jake LaMotta isn’t a good person would be quite an understatement, it doesn’t try to give you a reason to sympathise with him. It really doesn’t hold back in showing the brutal truth. It’s definitely not an easy movie to watch, only check it out if you’re ready for it really.

Robert De Niro gives one of the greatest performances of his career as Jake LaMotta. He’s transformative both as the fit Jake LaMotta earlier in his career, as well as the older and retired Jake LaMotta with more weight. Again, LaMotta really doesn’t have any redeeming qualities at all, with his mistrust, rage, outbursts, and self loathing alienating everyone around him. Yet De Niro manages to make him an human angle that works and makes him feels like a complex person, and still rather compelling to watch. The supporting cast also do well, with Cathy Moriarty playing Jake’s eventual wife and Joe Pesci playing Jake’s brother. Pesci and De Niro particularly have great chemistry together, really feeling like brothers.

Martin Scorsese directed this film immaculately, at the time of filming he thought that this might be his last film, and you certainly feel it in his work here. Although the black and white certainly helps with the violence with the colour of blood during boxing scenes, it also does something with the tone that makes it work, not to mention differentiates it from other boxing movies. The fighting scenes aren’t necessarily the focus of the movie but they are filmed masterfully. Unlike other boxing movies made at the time like Rocky, Raging Bull actually places the camera inside the ring along with the fighters. The violence both inside and outside the ring are harsh and brutal, and you feel every blow. Raging Bull is also edited extremely well, this marks the first time since Who’s that Knocking at My Door that Martin Scorsese would work with legendary editor Thelma Schoonmaker, and her work here is nothing short of fantastic. And with their work here you can see why Scorsese and Schoonmaker worked together on each of his movies from this point onwards.

Raging Bull is definitely a tough watch, but it’s a fantastic film on every level. Martin Scorsese is at the top of his game here, and the performances are great, especially from Robert De Niro, giving one of his all time best performances. It’s not a movie that you watch over and over again, but it is worth watching at least once.

Goodfellas (1990)

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Goodfellas

Time: 146 Minutes
Age Rating: 860949[1] Violence
Cast:
Ray Liotta as Henry Hill
Robert De Niro as Jimmy Conway
Joe Pesci as Tommy Devito
Lorraine Bracco as Karen Hill
Paul Sorvino as Paul Cicero
Director: Martin Scorsese

This film views the mob lives of three pivotal figures in the 1960’s and 70’s New York. Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) is a local boy turned gangster in a neighbourhood full of the roughest and toughest. Tommy Devito (Joe Pesci) is a pure bred gangster, who turns out to be Henry’s best friend. Jimmy Conway (Robert De Niro) puts the two of them together, and runs some of the biggest hijacks and burglaries the town has ever seen. As he makes his way from strapping young petty criminal, to big-time thief, to middle-aged cocaine addict and dealer, the film explores in detail the rules and traditions of organized crime.

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Goodfellas is one of Martin Scorsese’s masterpieces; from beginning to end, Goodfellas is compelling as it displays Henry Hill’s 3 decades in the life of the mob. Entertaining, interesting and fascinating, Goodfellas is a classic that draws the audience into watching the lives that these people lived.

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The narration in Goodfellas adds a lot to the movie, some movies use it as a gimmick but this is not the case here; we can almost understand Henry with these narrations. With the narrations that he gives throughout, it really feels like you are following Henry on his adventure as a gangster. The film is often compared with The Godfather but they have some differences, one being that this film doesn’t have many likable characters; despite the lifestyles that these gangsters lived, the film doesn’t condone them. Also while The Godfather seems to be about a dysfunctional family who happen to be in crime, Goodfellas presents the gangster characters more realistically and more raw. Despite there being brutal violence here, Martin Scorsese doesn’t glorify it; he puts it on screen and shows it in its’ true form. The differences between the two films are why I like Goodfellas more than The Godfather; the more realistic look on the characters made me more interested in the movie.

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Ray Liotta is really good in this movie; because he narrates throughout the movie, you really feel like you know him as you hear the details of how the mob works. The film mostly is around him and Liotta masterfully embodies Henry as we follow this man through his life as a gangster. Robert De Niro also brings a presence to this movie; Jimmy is someone who has been in the mob a while and you can really get that from De Niro’s performance. Stealing the show however is Joe Pesci, representing a hot tempered person who manages to be funny and intimating at the same time.

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This film is very stylistic, especially with the narration; sometimes the camera freezes and Hill explains something happening or maybe the background of a certain person. The cinematography is also excellent and fits in with the style; an example is the tracking shot from the outside to the inside of a club. (This is now often called the Copacabana shot). The shot lasted for around 3 minutes and is a very good example of the great cinematography that the film has. The soundtrack picked is excellent, especially the piano part of Derek and the Dominoes’ Layla, which is played over a montage. A lot of the style in this movie is used in a lot of great movies like Boogie Nights and American Hustle.

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Goodfellas is so many things; it compelling, engaging, interesting and results in it being one of the best movies of all time, one of the best gangster movies and is one of Martin Scorsese’s best movies. Even though I prefer Casino over Goodfellas, this movie is still undeniably a film for the ages. It’s one that you shouldn’t miss and you should see as soon as possible if you haven’t already.

Casino (1995) Review

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Casino

Time: 178 Minutes
Age Rating: 79a0443c-3460-4500-922d-308b655c1350[1] Graphic violence
Cast:
Robert De Niro as Sam ‘Ace’ Rothstein
Sharon Stone as Ginger McKenna
Joe Pesci as Nicky Sontoro
James Woods as Lester Diamond
Don Rickles as Billy Sherbert
Director: Martin Scorsese

Ace Rothstein (Robert De Niro) and Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci) are mobsters, who move to Las Vegas to make their mark, live and work in this paradoxical world. Seen through their eyes, each as a foil to the other, the details of mob involvement in the casinos of the 1970’s and ’80’s are revealed. Ace is the operator of the Tangiers casino, while Nicky is his boyhood friend and tough strongman, robbing and shaking down the locals. However, they each have a tragic flaw-Ace falls in love with a hustler, Ginger (Sharon Stone), and Nicky falls into an ever-deepening spiral of drugs and violence. This movie is based on some true events.

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A lot of movie buffs have movies that changed their viewpoint of film just being entertainment, to the idea that film is an art form. In my case, Casino is that film. It is wonderfully shot, brilliantly acted and has a style that really gets me interested in the type of world the characters are in. It unfortunately often gets overshadowed by the more well-known Goodfellas, a film that it is very similar to. Once again, Martin Scorsese has again created a masterpiece that has made a significant impact on me and many others as Casino presents the best that film has to offer.

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From the start, Casino had my attention and I couldn’t stop watching despite the movie being nearly 3 hours long. The narration is mostly done by Ace and Nicky and we really learn about how they thought, what they thought of and how things in Las Vegas worked. Regarding the characters in this movie, I didn’t feel any empathy or any kind connection to them, where as some people may be able to feel that in Goodfellas to some of the characters (even when they aren’t glorified) – this isn’t a negative; it is just something I have noticed. What is a positive is; is that by the end I felt that I learnt more about the characters in this movie more than Goodfellas. The film actually felt darker than Goodfellas, especially with the violence. Casino’s violence was much more brutal and unflinching than Goodfellas’s, especially a scene near the end that involves baseball bats in a cornfield. Overall, it doesn’t matter what movie you see first; they are both brilliant films in their own right.

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Robert De Niro is really good as always, and really fills his role here as Ace Rothstein, who is in a high position, running the casino. Joe Pesci is good here, playing someone who is quite a lot like his character in Goodfellas, a short tempered and violent person; however I actually feel that his performance here has more depth. It would be a crime to overlook Sharon Stone’s performance which would lead to the film’s only Oscar nomination. She plays her role extremely well and is on par with De Niro and Pesci. Other actors like James Woods and Don Rickles are good as well. Everyone in this movie is great but those three main actors stole every scene they were in.

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This being a Scorsese movie, is filled with a lot of energy, as most of his films are; the style was the icing on the cake that drew me into the story more, which was very similar to Goodfellas. The cinematography is great as always and has great music that fits in with the time period and the location of Las Vegas.

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Maybe it was the fact that I saw Casino before Goodfellas but this movie has made a bigger impact on me. Whatever you feel about how it holds up against Goodfellas, Casino deserves to be judged on its own. It certainly isn’t for everyone (An example being the cornfield scene) but overall, this is one of my favourite movies of all time and I owe a lot to it.

JFK (1991)

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JFK

Time: 189 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1] Offensive Language
Cast:
Kevin Costner as Jim Garrison
Kevin Bacon as Willie O’Keefe
Tommy Lee Jones as Clay Shaw
Joe Pesci as David Ferrie
Laurie Metcalf as Susie Cox
Gary Oldman as Lee Harvey Oswald
Michael Rooker as Bill Broussard
Jay O. Sanders as Lou Ivon
Sissy Spacek as Liz Garrison
Director: Oliver Stone

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) investigates the assassination of President John F. Kennedy on November 22 1963 in Dallas, Texas. After looking deep enough, he suspects that there may be more to the story than the public is being told.

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The assassination of John F. Kennedy is one of the biggest events in history and one of the most debated topics, especially when it came to conspiracy theories. I honestly didn’t know that much about the assassination before watching this film but after watching this movie it made me want to learn more about it. One of the things that makes JFK even better is the fact that these ‘characters’ are actually real people investigating what happened. The film isn’t just a documentary about possible scenarios of the president’s assassination; it follows Jim Garrison’s investigation. Whatever your thoughts on what happened with the assassination of John F. Kennedy are, this film is still worth a watch.

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It was fascinating watching these real life people investigate the mystery as they try to piece everything together. If there is one thing you should know about JFK before watching it, it’s that it gets more interesting over time. It first builds up the events before the investigation and during those moments, viewers may feel a bit bored, however it is well worth the wait. This movie is also long – at about 3 hours and 10 minutes. The film also has a lot of details; there may be too much information to process at once; so viewers should keep that in mind before viewing it. People will definitely remember some facts more than others. My favourite part of the movie is the final act; it summarises every theory and discovery Garrison has found over the course of his investigation. I won’t spoil any of the scenes that happen in this movie because if you are like me – someone who didn’t know that much about the assassination, you will find all the scenes to be a great surprise.

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The acting is top notch from everyone. The cast ranges from Kevin Costner to Tommy Lee Jones and Gary Oldman. All the actors in this movie are playing real life people and they definitely manage to feel like them. It may be easy to miss the acting while paying attention to the investigation but it still is really good and they should be applauded for their performances.

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One of the most distinctive and defining things about this movie is the cinematography and the editing. When people make predictions or discover something that happened, it flashes back to the past and is cut in such a way that makes it feel like a documentary. Also, the film sometimes blends archive footage with new scenes with a 60s older look. A good example of great use of it again, is at the end. In the end, the film blends the real life moments recorded on camera in the 60s (such as Kennedy’s assassination) with the possible unseen (filmed for the movie). The soundtrack by John Williams is also great, as all his compositions usually are.

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This movie should be seen, even just for learning about Jim Garrison’s search for the truth. I won’t mention what the scenario of the assassination is true; those are left up to the viewer. JFK can really get people talking about what they thought really happened, and can give people a different perspective on certain events in history. As someone who isn’t usually that interested or into conspiracy theories, I loved this movie and I recommend it to everyone. It is one of Oliver Stone’s best films.