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11.22.63 (2016)

Review by CJ

11-22-63

Director:
Kevin Macdonald, Frederick O.E. Toye, James Strong, James Franco, John David Coles, James Kent

Writer:
Stephen King (based on the novel by), Bridget Carpenter, Quinton Peeples, Brian Nelson, Brigitte Hales, Joe Henderson

Starring:
James Franco, Sarah Gadon, Daniel Webber, George MacKay

Other notable appearances:
Chris Cooper, Josh Duhamel, Tonya Pinkins, Nick Searcy, Leon Rippy, Lucy Fry, T.R. Knight, Kevin J. O’Connor, Jonny Coyne, Annette O’Toole, Michael O’Neill, Joanna Douglas, Cherry Jones, Gil Bellows

Running time:
42-81 minutes per episode

Number of episodes:
8

 

Jake Epping (Franco) is an English teacher who is tasked by a dying friend with travelling back in time to stop the assassination of JFK. During his time in the 1960s, Jake must juggle adjusting to a new time period with a new love and a past that doesn’t want to be changed.

11.22.63 is based on the novel of the same name by Stephen King.

11.22.63 is an enjoyable story that is part science fiction, part romance and two parts mystery. I feel anything with time travel in it needs to be classified, at least in part, as science fiction, however most of the story revolves around Jake finding out who was really behind JFK’s assassination so that they can be stopped.

I loved the novel on which this miniseries is based. The series does make some quite substantial changes to the story, a lot of which are due to the expansion of a character named Bill (MacKay). In this miniseries the relatively minor character of Bill is expanded to join Jake on his mission thus becoming the audience’s proxy in place of being able to read Jake’s thoughts on the page. I didn’t mind a lot of the changes but did find the character of Bill to be quite insufferable.

Franco’s Jake Epping/Amberson is a likeable but volatile character. He plays the character well given that he is a man with the weight of the future on his shoulders and is nearly 60 years out of his comfort zone.

Gadon’s Sadie Dunhill is an intelligent, sweet and no-nonsense character who plays another important role onscreen, giving Jake someone he can tell his thoughts to so that the viewers know what is going on. Far from just being an insufferable sounding board, I found Sadie to be the most likeable character in the series — followed closely by Pinkins’ Ms Mimi.

While one of the hardest characters to watch, the best performance without a doubt came from Daniel Webber as Lee Harvey Oswald. Webber portrays Oswald as awkward and terrifying and a little bit pathetic. While I don’t know the historical accuracies of this portrayal, it works perfectly for the character in the miniseries.

There were a lot of things missing from 11.22.63 that were great parts of the source material. Some of the most obvious ones I missed included Jake’s trial runs. While I understand keeping the series short and cost effective, I would have liked to see at least one of Jake’s practice runs.

I found that the past’s influence wasn’t as clearly felt as it should have been. It starts off with a bang over something menial but then dwindles to an inconvenience until the end of the series climax.

To be fair, most of my criticisms of 11.22.63 come from being a huge fan of the book on which it is based. As a standalone miniseries, 11.22.63 is an enjoyable time travel yarn with a wide range of characters played by talented actors. Definitely recommend for fans of the novel (with a grain of salt and remembering the book is almost always better) and viewers who enjoy a good mystery with a dash of time travel.

Rating:
4 Stars

“You’re gonna feel apart from other people. That doesn’t go away. But tread lightly. Don’t get too close to anyone.”

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