Based on Stephen King's fantastic time-travel/period novel, and starring James Franco, 11.22.63 takes us back to 1960, where Jake Epping (Franco) has been tasked by his old friend Al (Chris Cooper) to prevent the soon-to-be president Senator John F. Kennedy from being assassinated on that fateful day in Dallas by one Lee Harvey Oswald.
King explained at the begining of his novel that rather than go with the conspiracy theory he was going by the official report that Oswald was the lone gunman. Because every other treatment that I've seen or read of JFK's murder has covered the conspiracy, King's novel idea to have Oswald as the solo killer was made all the more entertaining. Moreover, 11.22.63 was ideal for making a multi-parter out of.
Hulu's new miniseries is split up into eight parts, and given the size of King's book and timespan it covers, this appears to be a very wise decision. Although this is a sci-fi yarn, it's the period setting that truly stands out. The period details are phenomenal, and it's thanks to these details that as we watch an amazed Jake drink in all the new sites and sounds, we also get to share the same experience.
James Franco, Chris Cooper, Sarah Gadon
15 February 2016
Ed's Grade: A
Episode 1 quickly and smartly establishes the groundrules that Jake must work by as he travels back in time using a portal that's in the back of Al's diner in a closet. When you enter the closet in 2015, you jump out the other side where it's October 21st, 1960, 11:58 a.m. No matter what changes you make, if you re-enter the closet, all those changes are reset. So, basically you have to get everything right in one go. Also, regardless of time spent in 1960, only 2 minutes have passed in 2015. But it's not that simple, because time starts pushing back when Jake tries to change things. One example is when he attempts to phone his father in 1960. Static suddenly starts up preventing Jake being heard, and to make sure he understands, an innocent woman loses control of her car and crashes into the phonebox destroying it and killing herself in the process. Clearly, King has put a great deal of thought into this time travel caper.
The acting by James Franco is stellar, and really helps to sell the fact that he's in the wrong time and way out of his depth. Franco's character Jake Epping is an English teacher, who's expected to investigate all these connections to the killing of JFK then prevent the future president from being assassinated, which in turn will prevent brother Bobby Kennedy from being killed by Sirhan Sirhan. Chris Cooper also puts in a solid turn as Al Templeton, a diner owner who's been obsessed with preventing the assassination for 35 years. But cancer has forced Al to pass the torch to Jake.
If the rest of the 8-part limited series follows the source material closely, then viewers will have to pay close attention to everything that's about to happen. Based on the pilot episode of 11.22.63, this miniseries promises much, and looks like it will deliver. Hulu appear to have a real winner on their hands with this King adaptation. I for one will be watching how this show plays out.