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Warner Home Video presents

JFK: Director's Cut (Blu-ray) (1991)

“Fundamentally, people are suckers for the truth. And the truth is on your side, Bubba.”- X (Donald Sutherland)

Stars: Kevin Costner
Other Stars: Kevin Bacon, Tommy Lee Jones, Laurie Metcalf, Gary Oldman, Michael Rooker, Jay O. Sanders, Sissy Spacek, Brian Doyle-Murray
Director: Oliver Stone

MPAA Rating: R for (Language)
Run Time: 03h:25m:49s
Release Date: 2008-11-11
Genre: drama

Image Transfer
Audio Transfer


DVD Review

Filmmaker Oliver Stone has made many a controversial film, but perhaps his most talked about project was 1991’s JFK. While the title suggests a biopic about one of our country’s greatest presidents, it is instead a study of the suspected conspiracy behind John F. Kennedy’s assassination. The film garnered a ton of attention upon its theatrical release, being talked about on national news shows as well as typical entertainment-oriented programs. It also received multiple Oscar nominations, including one for Best Picture, and took in over $200 million at the box office.

The year is 1963 and President John F. Kennedy has just been assassinated. While the country is mourning their tragic loss, the district attorney of New Orleans, Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) refuses to believe that suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) was solely responsible for Kennedy’s murder. When Oswald is murdered by Jack Ruby (Brian Doyle-Murray), the government considers the case closed, but Garrison isn’t satisfied that justice has been done. Countless hours of investigation turn into days, then weeks, then months, but Garrison will stop at nothing to get to the bottom of this, even if his job and his marriage suffer.

I remember experiencing Stone’s film for the first time 17 years ago (tough to believe it’s been that long) when I was still in high school, and it’s just as compelling and thought-provoking now. Every bit of evidence that Stone presents to us via Costner’s portrayal of Garrison (whose book the film is largely based upon) is still as convincing now as it was back then. The Best Editing Oscar that the film won is well-deserved, as the 3-and-a-half hour running time is pieced together so meticulously and perfectly that we’re never left looking at our watches or feeling exhausted. The fast pacing and linear structure keep our eyes glued to the screen, and, even if we’ve seen this long film many times before, every repeat viewing offers some tidbit of conspiratorial evidence that we might have missed during a previous viewing.

We simply don’t get the high caliber of ensemble cast as JFK very often, starting with Costner, who played Garrison at the peak of his acting career, and has arguably never been better. He makes us care about the determined plight of this character, and raises him to a respectability level beyond that of a crazy, deluded rebel. Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker (Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer), and Sissy Spacek give fine performances as well. It’s also great to see the late, great Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, and John Candy at their best, if only to remind us of what we’ve been missing in the years since their deaths. However, the man who steals every single scene he’s in is Tommy Lee Jones. His embodiment of Clay Shaw also garnered a Best Supporting Actor nomination that led to a huge boost to Jones’ career. This is just an amazing film that has stood the test of time, and will remain relevant for decades to come.

Rating for Style: A
Rating for Substance: A


Image Transfer

Aspect Ratio2.40:1 - Widescreen
Original Aspect Ratioyes

Image Transfer Review: The 2.40:1 widescreen presentation is simply stunning for a film that appeared in theaters way back in 1991. The images are crisp, sharp, and extremely detailed, with everything on the screen appearing in pristine condition whether we’re seeing footage shot by Stone or stock film from that fateful day in November, 1963. Colors are rich and bright, with black and shadow levels remaining consistent throughout. Good luck finding any dirt or grain.

Image Transfer Grade: A

Audio Transfer

 LanguageRemote Access
Dolby Digital
English, Frenchyes

Audio Transfer Review: The Dolby TrueHD soundtrack is also top notch, with the surrounds coming to life with dynamic fervor. While much of the film is dialogue-driven, the powerful score utilizes the surrounds quite a bit, and the repeated, fatal gunshots echo throughout the soundfield in an effectively haunting manner. Fortunately, the dialogue is always crystal clear.

Audio Transfer Grade: A- 

Disc Extras

Full Motion menu
Scene Access with 88 cues and remote access
Subtitles/Captions in English, French with remote access
1 Original Trailer(s)
11 Deleted Scenes
1 Alternate Endings
2 Documentaries
1 Featurette(s)
1 Feature/Episode commentary by Director Oliver Stone
Packaging: Book Gatefold
Picture Disc
1 Disc
1-Sided disc(s)
Layers: dual

Extras Review: The extras begin with an amazing audio commentary track by director Oliver Stone. He is simply mesmerizing us as he discusses every scene, while going into even more detail about his conspiracy theories involving Kennedy’s assassination.

Another highlight is the 90-minute documentary Beyond JFK: The Question of Conspiracy. This fascinating film is less biased than Stone, which provides us with a nice balance, especially if we aren’t as willing to buy into these theories as the director is.

Assassination Update: The New Documents takes a 29-minute look at the formation of The Assassination Records Review Board and the discovery of new records following the initial investigation.

Meet Mr. X: The Personality and Thoughts of Fletcher Prouty runs for 11 minutes and focuses on the real-life informant that was so memorably portrayed by Donald Sutherland in the movie.

There’s also a whopping 11 deleted scenes and an alternate ending, all of which can either be heard with their original soundtrack or with commentary by Stone. These scenes do add even more intrigue to the already-engaging story, and Stone’s commentary is just as interesting as his feature-length track.

Finishing things off is the original theatrical trailer.

Extras Grade: A-

Final Comments

Even if you already own a few versions of JFK on DVD, if you own a Blu-ray player, Warner’s HD release is worth a repeat purchase. With excellent audio and video and a great extras collection, fans of Oliver Stone and his controversial masterpiece will want to check this out immediately.

Chuck Aliaga 2008-11-17