Parkland tells the story of the Kennedy assassination in Dallas from the unique point of view of the unfamous. Perhaps the best-known name in the film’s featured lineup is Abraham Zapruder, whose accidentally-privileged eight millimeter footage (he happened to be at the right place at a tragic time) is noteworthy in nearly every discussion of the day. The man himself, played with great humility and feeling by Paul Giamatti, is infinitely less familiar to us. On the other hand, as a kind of existential victim bookend, the movie concludes with James Badge Dale as Robert Oswald, the destiny-haunted brother of the man who ended Camelot from a book dispensary window, and even more obscure, though apparently in plain sight all these years.
In between, we watch a parade of ordinary yet vital personages: The attendant resident doctor and nurses, an FBI agent, the head of the Secret Service, and the tense-lipped Dallas police in their cowboy hats. Of course, we do glimpse Jackie, LBJ and, in one of the film’s most memorable performances, Oswald behind bars. But the point of the film seems to be the universality of the tragic day.
In the end, it may disappoint ideologues and conspiracy fans, but Parkland is a simply-told, touching revisit. It may be a little too bloody and brutal for an after school special, but it’s a vibrant document reenacted with the feeling and decency the topic deserves.