On the 50th anniversary of John F. Kennedy’s assassination, “JFK: A President Betrayed” doesn’t revisit what happened on that fateful day in Dallas. Instead, Cory Taylor’s documentary examines the 35th president’s failures and successes on the Cold War front with a wistfulness for what might have been had Lee Harvey Oswald (whose name isn’t even mentioned) never taken aim.
The film, narrated by velvet-voiced Morgan Freeman, weaves a suspenseful narrative from eyewitnesses, including the English and Russian translators present at JFK’s Vienna summit with Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev; academic experts; and the children of key players, revealing an empathetic, humanist side to the president’s navigation of the Communist threat. Bullied and subverted by military advisors he inherited from the Eisenhower administration, Kennedy rejected a plan for a nuclear first strike, and at the time of his death, he’d decided to pull troops out of Vietnam and was pursuing a dialogue with Fidel Castro.
As revelatory as some of these details are, illustrated by a plethora of archival photographs and footage as well as visits to the locations where pivotal discussions and speeches took place, the information comes fast from talking heads who, let’s face it, can get a bit dry. Lose focus, and you risk missing the significance of what’s being conveyed.
“JFK: A President Betrayed.” No MPAA rating. Running time: 1 hour, 31 minutes. At Crest Theater, Westwood; Laemmle Claremont 5, Claremont; Laemmle Monica 4, Santa Monica; Laemmle NoHo 7, North Hollywood; Laemmle Playhouse 7, Pasadena. Also on VOD.