Highlights of John F. Kennedy's presidency, the events surrounding his assassination in 1963, and how the reporter who would become "the most trusted man in America" — CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite — broke the devastating news of JFK's death are all grippingly detailed in the documentary "One PM Central Standard Time."
One of many films and TV specials timed to coincide with this month's 50th anniversary of Kennedy's death, this deftly assembled piece, from producer-director Alastair Layzell, builds a solid head of steam as it goes, effectively recapturing the shock and urgency of one of our nation's darkest days.
Layzell revisits his iconic subject matter using a wealth of memorable, Kennedy-era archival photos and footage as well as smart interview clips with a host of venerable newspeople including Dan Rather, Robert MacNeil and Marianne Means (all of whom were in Dallas the day Kennedy was shot). Such other notable observers as former President Bill Clinton, author-historian Thurston Clarke and Cronkite's longtime producer, Sandy Socolow, also weigh in. The result: an affecting, illuminating portrait of two of America's most beloved, culturally enduring figures (Cronkite died in 2009 at age 92).
The film also serves as a vivid snapshot of the state of news gathering and reporting in the early 1960s, something that seems positively archaic compared to today's lightning-fast communication, 24-hour news cycles and arguably more malleable reporting standards.
However, newsroom-set reenactments, by the film's credited "drama director" Richard Dale, are not overly convincing and, as is often the case when employed in documentaries, largely unnecessary.
What is crucial here, though, is the familiar TV footage of Cronkite delivering the news of JFK's shooting and, soon after, his death — at around 1 p.m. CST. So many years later, these clips still undeniably move and chill.
"One PM Central Standard Time."
MPAA rating: None
Running time: 1 hour, 29 minutes.
Playing: Laemmle's Town Center 5, Encino.
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