Movie Project #32 and #33: JFK [1991] and The Untouchables [1987]

50 Movies Project #4: Contemporary Edition

The 50 Movies Project is an annual tradition at The Warning Sign. Every year, I select 50 movies that I feel I must see in order to continue my progression as a film lover. This year I’m focusing on contemporary films (1980 to present day) that I somehow haven’t gotten around to seeing yet.

JFK [1991]
JFK: Director’s Cut [1991, dir. Oliver Stone]
In Oliver Stone’s JFK, damn near everyone is to blame for the assassination of our 35th President — the CIA, FBI, Mafia, LBJ, Castro, the Dallas Police Department, and Southern anti-Communist radicals. These targets are all linked together by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner). The film follows his obsession with the case and his desperate attempts to uncover possible conspiracies.

Whether or not any of the theories presented in the film are true is irrelevant because JFK is simply a masterclass in the art of storytelling. So many different threads are successfully weaved in and out, and once you go down that rabbit hole, there’s no turning back. Our country will never truly know who all was involved in the shooting, but considering the fallacies in the “lone gunman” argument, I wouldn’t be surprised if the film held more truth than the government’s own Warren Commission.

For a film in which the director’s cut encompasses a whopping 206 minutes, time sure does fly by. Part of that is because the mystery regarding the assassination itself is so riveting, but a large part can be attributed to an absolutely stellar cast. Costner anchors the film, but just take a look at some of the other big names involved: Gary Oldman, Tommy Lee Jones, Joe Pesci, Kevin Bacon, Michael Rooker, Jack Lemmon, Walter Mattheau, Donald Sutherland, Sissy Spacek, John Candy… Every single one of them delivers a memorable performance, all crucial to the plot in some fashion.

The film’s length is what put me off from watching it for so long, and that’s a damn shame. JFK still has me thinking to this day, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it near the top of my project at the end of the year. 9/10

The Untouchables [1987, dir. Brian De Palma]
The Untouchables [1987, dir. Brian De Palma]
Brian De Palma’s The Untouchables is a real crowd pleaser. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s got a sharp script courtesy of David Mamet, an Oscar-nominated score from the legendary Ennio Morricone, and it’s stacked with memorable setpieces featuring an all-star cast. Set during 1920s Chicago, the film follows the famous Prohibition agent Eliot Ness (Kevin Costner) and his group of “untouchables” (including a tough Irish bastard played by Sean Connery) as they seek to take down Al Capone (Robert De Niro) and his illegal bootlegging operations.

There’s a lot to like here, and it starts with the characters. Ness is a straight-laced agent, but there’s something admirable about his dedication to the law. His righthand man, the local beat cop played by Connery, is a real highlight, providing a certain energy to balance out the dry Ness. De Niro isn’t given a whole lot to work with as Capone, unfortunately, though there is one unforgettable scene where he does his best Babe Ruth impression with a baseball bat (except not on a baseball, if you know what I mean..).

Since this is a De Palma film, it is beautifully shot, and it makes brilliant use of its Chicago setting. In arguably the film’s most famous scene, a staircase inside the Union Station is used as an homage to the famous Odessa Steps sequence in the silent classic, Battleship Potemkin. Although the climax is a bit too over the top for my liking, on the whole The Untouchables is a highly entertaining film that still holds up today. 8/10

12 thoughts on “Movie Project #32 and #33: JFK [1991] and The Untouchables [1987]

  1. Wendell says:

    Still haven’t gotten around to seeing JFK myself. Every time I say I’m going to I wind up passing it over for something else. On the other hand, The Untouchables is one of my all time favorites. Connery is pure gold in this one. While it’s true Dr Niro wasn’t given a ton to do, he absolutely stole every scene he was a part of.

    • Eric @ The Warning Sign says:

      JFK might be Oliver Stone’s best work, and it’s definitely worth a watch (especially if you enjoy conspiracies or in-depth investigations).

      The Untouchables was a lot of fun. I could see myself revisiting that one from time to time.

  2. pipitinc says:

    As a movie lover myself I am fascinated with the idea of having a bucket list of movies to see before I die. I am still quite young so I know I have a whole lot of time to see as many as I can. JFK being one. The mystery of his death still haunt America in a way

  3. jackdeth72 says:

    Hi, Eric:

    Being a kid when Kennedy was shot, And enduring the nonsense later. I’ve avoided ‘JFK’.

    While ‘The Untouchables’ shows the wisdom of Sean Connery taking a back seat. And excelling in a supporting role!
    Also like Charles Martin Smith for brainy comic relief.

  4. ckckred says:

    Nice review. JFK’s an amazing picture for sure. I watched the director’s cut a few years back and was surprised how quickly time flew. I also can’t think of the movie without mentioning this:

  5. Jeff Norburn says:

    JFK is a remarkably entertaining film. Pure fiction and conspiracy fantasy but if you set that aside and just enjoy the film, it’s extraordinary story telling with stellar performances.

    Totally agree with you take on The Untouchables. Been years since I’ve seen it but it was a very good film with an ending that was too over the top. Still, stellar performances and a film I should probably watch again.

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