I’ve had my eye on 11.22.63 ever since I read that Hulu was going to air the miniseries based on Stephen King’s novel of the same name with King and J.J. Abrams producing. For those who don’t have the video service or just want a physical version to watch, all eight episodes finally make their way to Blu-ray in this two disc set that shows exactly what makes Stephen King and his stories the stuff of legends.
Jake Epping (James Franco) is a English teacher from Maine who is trying his best to make it through life with teaching a class who couldn’t care less about what he teaches, and with just recently getting divorced. Seeing this as an opportunity to do something better with his life, Jake’s friend who runs a diner named Al Templeton (Chris Cooper) decides to share an amazing secret with him, that Al’s storage closet is a gateway to October 21, 1960. After being shocked by going through it and coming back right away, Jake tries to take it in as Al tells him he wants Jake to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy. Reluctant to do so at first, as it would require him to live in the 60’s for three years (though only two minutes passes in the present), he decides to honor his friend’s request.
Once he’s armed with some knowledge of the past, all of Al’s notes on Lee Harvey Oswald (Daniel Webber) and people connected to him, and some money, fake ID’s, etc to live in the past, he sets out on his quest to stop the ill-fated shooting. Of course it won’t be just as simple as that, as time itself attempts to stop Jake at any cost. From making accidents that nearly kill him, or random people to hinder or stop him completely, to allowing him to fall in love with Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon) and thinking twice about ever going back to the present, time does its best to stop Jake from altering it. Things become even more hectic when Jake meets Bill Turcotte (George MacKay) who wishes to aid him in his quest, but he just might turn out to be time’s biggest hinderance of all.
Watching James Franco as Jake making his way through the early 60’s, including confronting and dealing with the bigotry and racism of the time, was quite a treat to watch. There are times when he doesn’t seem too enthused playing the character, but when things begin to heat up and get serious, Franco rises to the challenge. The other actors in the series are great as well, such as Sarah Gadon as Sadie and George MacKay as Bill who come into Jake’s life and tend to make things complicated in his mission. As always, watching great shows in high definition is a blast, and this series was no different as the visuals and audio come in crystal clear.
There’s only one special feature, but it’s really good one titled “When the Future Fights Back”. Here, Stephen King, J.J. Abrams, Bridget Carpenter and James Franco discuss how the series came to be from pre-production to being finalized. Watching them talk candidly about what went into making the show come to life was a nice treat that I wish more home video releases would have.
If you’re a history buff, someone who enjoys hard sci-fi, or just loves a great miniseries, you’ll want to go on a quest to pick up a copy of 11.22.63. Filled with plenty of tension-filled moments where the mission to save JFK always seems to take one step forward and five steps back, and dealing with the ignorance of the time period should be more than enough to keep viewers watching until the shocking finale.