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Movies shot on video start with a strike against them. Something about the look is too plain, too present, and not magical enough. It’s harder to become engaged when you’re watching video enlarged onto film.

But every once in a while, the look of video is justified by the story, and the plain and present look enhances the plot. Such was the case with The Blair Witch Project, and so it is with Interview with the Assassin.

The Second Gunman

Ex-marine Walter Ohlinger turns his back on Kennedy againRon Kobeleski (Dylan Haggerty) is a videographer for a TV station. Ron is almost always behind the camera — the entire movie is told from his camera’s point of view. He’s always wanted to do something bigger than television, and when his neighbor Walter (Raymond J. Barry) comes over, he gets the chance of a lifetime. Walter tells Ron to turn on his camera and then makes a startling revelation. “I was in Dallas, November 22nd, 1963.... I was the second gunman,” he says, referring to the Kennedy assassination.

Walter’s claim deserves, prima facie, to be rejected, and in fact Ron shares our disbelief. But Walter has a surprising wealth of details, including a cartridge casing that he says comes from the shot that killed Kennedy.

Ron takes the casing to a lab for testing, and nothing the lab tells him contradicts Walter’s story: it’s the right age, and it’s for the right type of rifle. Ron is (along with the audience) still skeptical, but Walter has an answer for every complaint. Ron, meanwhile, just keeps his camera rolling as they track down leads to corroborate or deny Walter’s story.

A Magic Bullet

Interview with the Assassin is surprisingly engaging. Once you get caught up in the story, there is no escape. Not only is the subject matter interesting, but the balance between “couldn’t be!” and “could it?” is struck perfectly.

Clearly, it’s difficult to believe Walter’s story, but because Ron the cameraman shares our disbelief, we have an advocate on-screen. We want Walter to prove his outrageous claims, and so does Ron. Ron asks the same hard questions we would.

On the other hand, Walter obliges Ron with openness and honesty. Barry gives a masterful, convincing performance. Walter is telling the truth. The question is whether it’s the real truth or a madman’s fantasy. All we can do is sift through the evidence with Ron and look for a magic bullet.

True Believers and Skeptics

The two points of view are so well balanced that viewers can choose to side with the conspiracy theory or maintain their skepticism. The movie supports both views, even as Ron uncovers more and more facts.

Most surprisingly of all, writer/director Neil Burger is able to give this story a dramatic arc. He invents a climax and a coda, while still maintaining the all-important balance.

It’s difficult to fault Interview with The Assassin on any level. All I can come up with is that maybe a few of the shots Ron gets on his camera are a little too fortuitous to be believed. But unless you find the whole concept distasteful, there’s no reason to miss Interview with the Assassin.

  • Ron Dahlke: I keep thinking that, from a side view of what is purported to be Ohlinger, that he looks like a man, who was a friend of another man back in 1962, in New Orleans, Louisiana. The one who looks younger is alive today. The other one may now have passed away, from what the younger one now says.

    The younger man is James E. Files, who at that time was a CIA contract agent, and mob hitman and driver from Chicago's one-time Giancana mob "family." The other man was a CIA agent. Files says that the other man, whose name he said he would not give until he had verification that the man is dead, had killed Officer Tippit by mistake. He had been contracted to kill Lee Harvey Oswald, but that the officer had appeared on scene where the Oswald killing was to take place, and that he found himself in a trap, and shooting Tippit was preferable in order to stay alive.

    The man is pictured at www.jfkmurdersolved.com, standing beside James Files who holds a hollow core guitar. It is listed at the site under "Mister X."

    Might be worth checking out.

    November 1, 2008 reply