An adaptation of Stephen King’s novel, 11.22.63 benefits from a strong cast and a mini-series structure that allows for ample story and character development, while ensuring that we never forget about the event central to the story, the countdown at the grassy knoll. Produced by J.J. Abrams and written by Bridget Carpenter (Friday Night Lights), is an interesting morality tale, as characters struggle with whether they should change time. An intriguing premise to be sure.
A high school English teacher in Lisbon, Maine, Jake Epping (James Franco), is dealing with a divorce and the recent death of his father. It makes sense that he’s feeling a bit lost. One day, he is approached by his friend Al (Chris Cooper) who owns a local diner, with a strange proposition. It seems the closet in Al’s diner is some kind of time machine. Once you step through the closet you find yourself transported to October 1960. Every trip, only takes two minutes in the present.
Al is convinced that if the assassination plot of John F. Kennedy is stopped, the world would be a much better place. His reasoning is shaky, but heart felt. Al has already tried and failed to stop the killing. Now stricken with cancer and unable to finish what he set out to do, he asks Jake to help save JFK. Can he survive for three years in the past? Is Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) really the killer?
A strange premise I know, but it works.
James Franco settles into the role of Jake quite well, mixing the characters humor with an increasing sense of desperation. The intensity Chris Cooper brings to his portrayal of Al in the early scenes helps to ground the entire story and prepare viewers for events to come. Webber makes for a complex Oswald, while George MacKay shines as Jake’s right-hand man Bill. The cast is rounded out by Josh Duhamel and TR Knight as deplorable men of the era, and Sarah Gadon as Jake’s love interest Sadie. There are also appearances by the always reliable Cherry Jones, Nick Searcy, Tonya Pinkins and Leon Rippy.
Stephen King’s novel is a doorstop. Meaning things had to be paired down. Nonetheless, the mini-series format allowed those involved to really create the look and feel of the era, overseen by production designer Carol Spier. Jake is even forced to confront the racism of the time when he inadvertently heads for a “colored only” restroom and is immediately directed away.
If you’re a fan of Stephen King or history, 11.22.63 comes highly recommended.
Shot digitally in a standard 1.85:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p presentation looks just as beautiful as you would expect. The color palette, even as the series shifts between time periods, is impressive. There is a warm glazy look to the sixties period, which only adds to the nostalgia. Colors are appropriate throughout and blacks are inky. The image is solid, with no flaws to be found.
The DTS-HD MA 5.1 track serves the series well, providing a fairly immersive experience, particularly when something ominous occurs. Otherwise the surrounds are used in a nice, rather unobtrusive manner to carry through ambient sounds and effects. Dialogue is clean and clear throughout. While the track won’t blow anyone away, there’s nothing to complain about here.
English, French and Spanish subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- When the Future Fights Back (HD, 15:13) Surprisingly comprehensive, this making-of-featurette has interviews with author Stephen King, screenwriter and executive producer Bridget Carpenter, executive producer J.J. Abrams and various members of the cast and crew. Topics discussed include changes made from the novel, casting, recreating events and more.
- UltraViolet Copy.
*” Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided me with a free copy of the Blu-ray I reviewed in this post. The opinions I share are my own.”