"“The severity and historical importance of this moment in time makes for thrilling cinematic territory...”"

There are only a handful of days in modern history that provoke the question, 'Where were you when...?' but the fateful day that American President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, is certainly one of them. The severity and historical importance of this moment in time therefore makes for thrilling cinematic territory, as we delve into the day from a variety of differing perspectives, in Peter Landesman's Parkland.

The day is November 22, 1963 – when President Kennedy flew out to Dallas, Texas on a political endeavour, where he was murdered next to his beloved wife, Jacqueline. We then peer into the killing from various sources – that of everyday people going about their days, before becoming embroiled in this unsavoury turn of events. We have Dr. Charles Carrico (Zac Efron), who attempts to resuscitate the President at the local hospital, Parkland. We also delve into the life of Abraham Zapruder (Paul Giamatti), who caught the killing on tape (the same, infamous footage we still see today), before claiming the limelight from local press and the secret service, most notably from agent Forrest Sorrels (Billy Bob Thornton). Meanwhile we even take a look at the assassination from the other side, gathering the reaction from the brother of the chief culprit Lee Harvey Oswald, Robert (James Badge Dale).

Landesman really provides an insight into this one, pivotal day, as it feels extensively well covered from a variety of areas, making you feel as though you were there yourself. Given the richness to the narrative, there is so much dramatic and emotional scope, and some of the scenes – particularly at the hospital – are difficult to watch. Landesman must be commended from an editing point of view too, as the plethora of stories tie together seamlessly.

However that does belie the one big issue with this title – and that's the fact it's an ensemble piece. All of these characters have been placed in a fascinating scenario and all have integral roles to play, however given the structure and premise to this title, we don't focus on any of them with enough depth and it devalues their individual tales somewhat. There is enough substantiality to these characters, and they could each have their own film dedicated to the role they played and their unique version of events, however we move between stories so freely that it becomes increasingly difficult to get invested in any one in particular, and you leave feeling somewhat unfulfilled.

The picture does feel a little inconsequential at times too, as we all know what occurred on this day and nothing new comes to light as such, as the day is merely accounted as it all happened – there are no revelations of any kind. This could work equally as well had it been a documentary. In fact, given the unique premise to this picture, it could even work as a TV drama series, with an episode a week focusing on one individual character.

Meanwhile, and on the plus side, Giamatti completely steals the show, once again proving himself to be one of the finest actors working today. This also marks a promising debut for Landesman, putting behind his controversial New York Times article that was accused of being partly fictitious. Alternatively, Parkland feels like an earnest, authentic depiction of what happened that day, if that's any consolation.