Forty-five years after the Kennedy assassination, those tragic events in Dallas remain a source of near-unparalleled fascination — especially if that’s an excuse for the Discovery Channel to bring way-cool forensic investigation techniques to bear on the evidence. Conspiracy theorists will likely be disappointed by this latest indulgence aimed primarily at the science-geek contingent, which recreates the shooting in meticulous detail to prove or disprove whether the shot that killed the president could have emanated from the grassy knoll or anywhere other than the book depository.
“Admirable restraint” is a term seldom associated with such endeavors, but given that the whole question here pivots on the source of the fatal bullet, the producers are to be commended for their judicious use of the Zapruder film — unlike, say, the manner in which Oliver Stone kept replaying it in the closing sequence of “JFK.”
At the same time, as constructed “JFK: Inside the Target Car” is pretty much your standard techno-fest in the same vein as “Mythbusters,” having a sharpshooter attempt to replicate the killing on fake heads that approximate the contents of a human skull. So when the bullets strike, plumes of lime-green muck standing in for brain matter spray in every direction.
It is, in essence, an extremely thorough account of one particular aspect of the story. Gary Mack, who oversees the Dealey Plaza Museum, participates in the staging, which also consults eyewitnesses to augment the theory that Lee Harvey Oswald could indeed have been the lone gunman.
To anybody with an interest in this case — going back to Mark Lane’s efforts to discredit the Warren Commission report — this Discovery spec is merely the latest addition to a burgeoning, if rather morbid, industry. And while it’s an interesting, briskly paced update of the science, nothing will put the matter to rest at this point so long as TV continues its penchant of breathlessly marking such anniversaries.
In other words, don’t be surprised if there’s a new documentary wrinkle on the JFK mythos — however slight or ephemeral –around the same time, next year.