Just before he died, former President Lyndon B. Johnson gave a lengthy interview where he detailed his time in office, but the reason he was President was discussed and removed from the final programme, for he purported to express the concern that John F. Kennedy, who preceded him, had been the victim of a conspiracy, and not a lone gunman. Could this be true? This film returns to 1963 and stages what might have happened behind the scenes as a coterie of rich, far right businessmen and covert ops men with similar political sympathies joined forces to organise their scheme. Could they have been so powerful that nothing would have stood in their path?
Back when conspiracy theories were the preserve of the counterculture, they were a somewhat left-wing endeavour, worth remembering when they went mainstream in the nineteen-nineties to the extent that later on they started to inform many people's political beliefs, especially on the right wing. It seemed the more outrageous the theory, the more likely it was to be embraced by a section of the world who were not so much looking for facts to back up their views, more looking for excuses to believe some particularly reactionary opinions. The left's conspiracies were looking very anaemic in the face of this wave of almost science fictional torrent of dubious theorising.
So where did this leave the granddaddy of all the modern conspiracies, the assassination of JFK? On the basis of judging this film, looking kind of quaint: no UFOs, no revived Nazis, no reptilians, no fulfilment of Biblical prophecies... you tended to regard the cabal of men behind the scenes doing all the pulling of strings here and wonder, is that all you got? This far after the fact of Kennedy's murder, with the conspiracies, if anything, multiplying and increasingly obscuring the facts of the case, never mind the rumours and suspicions, it was oddly reassuring to watch a positing of the crime that made it seem relatively straightforward, though it had to be said this was a dry account.
Dalton Trumbo's script, based on the musings of arch-JFK justice seeker Mark Lane, was under David Miller's direction leaning on the drama-documentary approach, which meant the cast of mostly middle-aged and older men were left to make speeches at each other in nondescript locations - boardrooms, drawing rooms, hotel rooms, and so forth - while edited in were genuine clips of the main players most visible in the news reports this production had access to. According to this, JFK was assassinated because these fascistic coup instigators were concerned he would improve the lot of the minorities in America, meaning encouraging Communism, and seek to dismantle the Cold War, which would include withdrawing U.S. troops from Eastern Asia, allowing the Soviets, who they did not trust, to potentially rule the world.
Meanwhile the majority of us in the global population would be stuck between a rock and a hard place, with the powers that be polarised and whipping up resentment and worse in their citizens. It sounds a lot more plausible than what has popped up online since in many instances, but this refused to name names, which kind of scuppered its claims to authenticity - apparently nobody had the funds at hand should the accused get litigious. Despite the backing of old time stars Burt Lancaster and Robert Ryan (his final role) Executive Action was all but forgotten mere weeks after its abortive release (it was considered bad taste at best), but when Oliver Stone's not dissimilar JFK was a blockbuster in the nineties, about the same time that The X-Files was ushering in the widespread fascination with conspiracies, this received renewed attention and showings on television. It does come across as far more level-headed than Stone's soapbox hectoring, yet forlorn in the face of how preposterous the matters it was allied with would turn out to be; you imagine a flat Earther seeing this and thinking, "What? Is that all?" Music by Randy Edelman.