If you have been to the Sixth Floor Museum above Dealey Plaza in Dallas, Texas and stood in the exact spot where Lee Harvey Oswald fired the fatal shots at President John F. Kennedy, you know the haunting feeling of being in that historic vantage point.
The first scene of National Geographic Channel’s “Killing Kennedy” forces the audience to look down the barrel of Oswald’s gun down to JFK’s car as he passed through Dealey Plaza nearly 50 years ago.
The movie, based on Bill O’Reilly and Martin Dugard’s book of the same name, chronicles the four years leading up to Kennedy’s assassination from both the president’s and Oswald’s perspectives.
It’s a story that we all know the ending to, but the best parts of the movie explain much of what many of us may not know about Oswald’s character: His life in Russia and his obsession with becoming famous for changing the world – something that he unfortunately achieved.
Oswald is played quietly but maniacally by relative newcomer Will Rothhaar, who captures the killer’s enigmatic persona in a breakout performance.
“Killing Kennedy” switches between Oswald’s frantic quest to bring down capitalism and the president’s short term in the White House. It touches on the Bay of Pigs disaster, the Cuban Missile Crisis and Kennedy’s infamous “woman problem,” as his brother Bobby puts it at one point in the film.
The movie builds suspense as Oswald gets closer and closer to choosing Kennedy as his target, and as the administration lays security plans for the trip to Dallas.
Rob Lowe certainly has the JFK look, with an orangey tint and veneers to match the president’s. His accent is full of Massachusetts money, but Lowe was wise not to veer into a parody or impersonation of the president — it’s easy to forget that you are watching Lowe.
Michelle Trachtenberg (“Gossip Girl,” “Eurotrip”) gives a great performance as Oswald’s frightened and abused wife, and does the movie almost entirely in Russian.
As Jackie O, Ginnifer Goodwin (“Once Upon a Time,” “Something Borrowed”) shares the same poise and grace as the former first lady. The tears in Goodwin’s eyes as she sits in the hospital in that famous pink suit stained with her husband’s blood is one of the saddest points in the movie.
A movie about JFK’s life could go on for days, but National Geographic’s version captures the suspense, tragedy and senselessness of the assassination in a great 90 minutes of television, made even more poignant with the anniversary of JFK’s assassination. It will be worth your while to watch it when it premieres on Nov. 10.