Like too many documentaries, Alastair Layzell’s One PM Central Standard takes its premise — that Walter Cronkite was a transformative figure and the assassination of John F. Kennedy was the most important story he broke — less as a starting point and more as a singular notion to continually reinforce.
It also features the typical array of celebrity talking heads (Brian Williams, Dan Rather, Bill Clinton), a celebrity narrator (George Clooney), poorly staged reenactments, and thumping choral music that would better accompany a battle sequence in Lord of the Rings than a 90-minute doc about a journalist (even one as universally renowned as Cronkite).
Such trappings have long been par for the nonfiction course, but One PM‘s otherwise restrained approach and commitment to fact-finding are so apropos of Cronkite himself as to nearly cancel out some of the film’s more ill-advised tendencies. There are also a number of provocative ideas put forth — that Dallas had been known as a “center of hatred” since at least 1960; that Cronkite and Kennedy, both of whom were 46 and had been “tempered by war,” were not so dissimilar; and that JFK was “on the cusp of ending the Cold War” in the months leading to his death — and the film pays no mind to the conspiracy theories that quickly followed.
Taken in tandem with its elegiac tone, this lack of an obtrusive agenda positions One PM less as another tribute to a fallen president and more as a remembrance of a time when journalism was carried out with a little more grace and dignity than it is today.