A few decades before Oliver Stone made JFK, this taut thriller was the first picture to explore a conspiracy theory premise about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. The end result holds up surprisingly well. Executive Action remains compelling today because it is a very carefully assembled piece of work. Dalton Trumbo's script features many players and a lot of assassination-based theorizing but it never becomes confusing because he focuses its many elements around a line of reasoning that drives the proposed conspiracy and takes a breathless, "just the facts" approach to his storytelling. Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan and Will Geer all do an excellent job of providing faces for the various facets of this line of reasoning: Lancaster brings both the smarts and the intensity one would expect to his role while Ryan adds a weary, thoughtful note to his conspiratorial role and Geer is amusing as a sly, reluctant (but ultimately convinced) conspirator. Finally, the film is held together by David Miller's tidy direction: he gives the viewer plenty of visual stimulus, deftly crosscutting his narrative with newsreel footage (both real and re-created), and maintaining a taut pace that keeps the viewer involved from start to finish. To sum up, Executive Action is smart and engaging film that is worth seeing for anyone interested in intelligent political-minded thrillers.
by Donald Guarisco review