Tackling a familiar subject with unfamiliar style, Parkland has potential to be special, but ultimately missteps and fails to deliver the drama it promises.
The fundamental issue is that this subject, and the way Parkland investigates it, deserves more development than an hour and half movie can give. Parkland tries to shove so many characters into its limited scope that it fails to develop any of them, meaning it rapidly becomes a visualized historical treatise, not an emotional drama. In other words, we do not know these characters, not any of the dozen or so the film presents. I wonder how much more powerful Parkland might have been as a five or six part miniseries, a series through which we could have come to know the characters more intimately.
Because we do not know the characters, we do not feel the emotional weight or moral ambiguity in their decisions. We can understand it intellectually, of course, but if that’s all Parkland hoped to accomplish it would have been a documentary, not a fictional feature.
Despite the flaws in characterization, Parkland effectively demonstrates that emotion does not facilitate good decision making.
The actors are also very good. James Badge Dale (Robert Oswald) and Billy Bob Thornton (Forrest Sorrels, a high ranking Secret Service agent) stand out as especially effective. Their characters are no better developed than the others, but the actors add an extra layer of emotion and frustration, thereby making their stories more interesting.
The way Parkland is edited proves problematic, however. The movie jumps between characters and events haphazardly, often making it difficult to track the experiences of individuals.
In the end, Parkland’s conceit is interesting and the actors are good enough to keep it somewhat engaging, but the screenplay and editing fail to deliver anything emotionally memorable. Parkland could have been good. But it isn’t.