The Rabbit Hole
The Kill Floor
Other Voices, Other Rooms
The Eyes Of Texas
Happy Birthday, Lee Harvey Oswald
The Day In Question
8 part mini-series 11.22.63, based on the Stephen King novel of the same name, is an impressively crafted time-travel thriller. With an inspired James Franco in the driving seat and a faithfully adapted story, creator Bridget Carpenter has done a wonderful job bringing King’s adrenaline-fuelled novel to life.
The story begins in present day America with high school teacher Jake Epping (James Franco) who learns of a portal leading to the past in a diner he frequents run by his friend Al. After a brief introduction to the way this portal works, Jake is thrust literally head over heels into the past, 1960s America to be exact, where he’s given the idea to stop the assassination of John F. Kennedy and change the future.
With Jake continuing to invest more and more time in the past, he finds himself striking up unlikely friendships, especially with confident Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon), whilst being pursued by authorities as a result of his elaborate betting. All of this builds toward a climactic finale involving the day of the assassination and what this may means for the future if Jake is successful in his mission.
Having read through the book and thoroughly enjoyed every tantalising page, it was always going to be difficult to recreate the same tension and excitement the book manages to ooze so effortlessly. While this 8 part mini-series doesn’t quite reach the same lofty heights the book achieves, there’s still an impressive amount of work done to recreate the feelings that are so raw in the book.
This authenticity spills over to the costume and set design too, with both departments doing a great job bringing the 60s to life. From suits and slicked back hair to long gown dresses and stark societal attitudes toward women and race, 11.22.63 effortlessly portrays the mood of 60s America, wrapping it up in a well-defined and easy to understand narrative and time travel mechanics.
Many times in a series like this the rules of time travel and jumping back in time are brushed off through a vague explanation of paradoxes or plot inconsistencies that take you away from the series. Although 11.22.63 does fall into this trap a little, it’s easily overshadowed by the consistent narrative and focus on characters that take centre stage in this thriller.
James Franco does an excellent job bringing Jake Epping to life too. He encapsulates his written counterpart perfectly with the right blend of drive and commitment while conflicted by his own feelings toward Sadie Dunhill (Sarah Gadon) and what changing the past mean for the future. The various supporting characters, including Lee Harvey Oswald and the mysterious Yellow Card Man, are impressively written as well, with enough conviction to pull off their book counterparts perfectly. There are of course differences here and there with the story embellishing a little but these are generally beneficial for the series and don’t take anything away from the series.
In a seemingly endless array of Stephen King adaptations on the small screen both good (Mr. Mercedes) and bad (The Mist), 11.22.63 defiantly stands proudly as one of the best, with a well written narrative forming the crux of this faithful adaptation of King’s thrilling novel. A few pacing issues and a couple of episodes that drag the material out a little hold this back from being the perfect series it could have been but there’s enough here to make for quite the thrilling watch.