‘Interview with the Assassin’ Review: “I Shot JFK”

Posted in The Screening Room by - March 29, 2016

Interview with the Assassin opens with Ron Kobeleski questioning his neighbor Walter Ohlinger, who has one big confession to make: He was the man who killed President John F. Kennedy. Ron can’t believe it and asks for proof, and what follows is a descent into hell that ends up affecting Ron’s family and risking his life in ways he could not imagine

For most of the film, Interview with the Assassin is a very eerie, creepy film with a sinister atmosphere that never lets up. The camera mostly stays on Ohlinger, and boy does actor Raymond J. Barry know how to play the role. It’s probably one of the best performances I’ve ever seen. He’s frightening and convincing, giving a nuanced performance in which we can see him change from one mood and suddenly to another.

One scene has him visiting Ron when suddenly, one of Ron’s daughters walks into the room. His demeanor becomes grandfatherly at this point, and he’s willing to humor the girl for a moment, offering his knee to her, so she plays horsey. Scenes like these are not only so useful because of Barry’s acting, but also because constantly, and much like Ron himself we keep wondering if Barry is lying or not.

Regardless if he’s lying or not, could he be insane and dangerous? The movie does an awful lot to keep us guessing from beginning to end, and regularly surprises, with scenes that play to our worst fears about the character.

This was Neil Burger’s feature film debut, and it is amazingly assured. For the most part, many young filmmakers opt to go the mockumentary or found a route to justify amateur flaws in their craftsmanship, but this doesn’t seem to be the case with Burger. It’s very skillfully directed, with Burger knowing exactly where to put the camera to enhance and create suspense. Also, he never shakes the camera to the point that things become impossible to see or become dizzying. If he chooses to go beyond solid shots, it is for good reason.

Burger would later direct films like The Illusionist, The Lucky Ones, and Divergent. In a way, The Illusionist is a superior film, but sadly it seems like nothing he has done has matched what he did here or in that movie. I’d love to see him try to do something similar to this film again.  

Unfortunately, Interview with the Assassin doesn’t finish as strong as it starts. It has a powerful, engaging climax but ends on a bit of a limp note. Almost as if it had been forced to create a downbeat ending rather than one that made the most sense. It doesn’t kill the film, but I was hoping the movie could have a stronger finish than it does. All that said, it remains suspenseful and frightening. Even if you don’t believe in conspiracy theories regarding the JFK assassination, it will still freak you out.

Final Say: Watch It

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