Kevin Bacon, John Candy and Jack Lemmon did not receive Oscar nomination for portraying Willie O'Keefe, Dean Andrews, and Jack Martin respectively in JFK.
What I mean by that is the specific delivery of the objections, and points of reality brought on by Bill as the "devil's advocate" for many of the early scenes, even as he is shown still to be pretty dogged investigator. Rooker does not for a moment allow Bill to be some simple straw man by providing such straight forward quality within his delivery of his objections and concerns. Rooker doesn't show them as this perpetually naysayer, but rather provides the right substance of consideration just for the facts when he does so. He creates that right basic ability for doubt, but Rooker wisely portrays this as Bill just being less fervent in his belief in the conspiracy rather than in support for Garrison. Rooker creates the right dynamic as this force of dissent in the scenes of Garrison's group discussions. He offers the alternate viewpoint as this convincing perspective by making every initial frustration and reaction of disbelief as something wholly genuine. Rooker by taking this approach makes the pivotal choice in terms of Bill's transition as he is approached to essentially spy on Garrison lest his own law career be sacrificed. Rooker is great in this offer scene as he does not present as this the easy choice of a weasel. Rooker instead finds in the emotional intensity of the moment the right conflict as he speaks. He delivers the sense of a real unease with considering the offer as it mean betraying his boss, but also a frustration knowing that he doesn't want to sacrifice his own career for an investigation he doesn't fully believe in. Although it is a somewhat brief moment Rooker captures so effectively the conflict in Bill in that moment, and again offers more substance within the role than there may have been otherwise.
Bill stays on a spy however Rooker thankfully does not immediately become this villainous force. When espousing on his new discoveries though there is this slight half-hearted quality within Rooker's delivery that properly alludes to his state of mind. He also brings this when he is questioned about his devotion, where Rooker brings the right extreme snap back at any accusations that isn't over the top rather the expected reaction of a man with a guilty conscience. Rooker's best moment comes though as Bill launches into his own alternative theory that involves the mob rather than the entire U.S. government as Garrison proposes. Rooker is great in this scene though as he passionately advocates Bill's view in two frames of mind. One being a genuine passion towards the idea but also this unease towards accepting such a nihilistic view of the government. Rooker fashions another layer though even beyond that to show this certain desperation in his delivery not in terms of selling his idea, but rather towards Garrison's own safety. Rooker does not make it this selfish diversion, but rather shows some better side to Bill making the alternate conspiracy as much of a plea as anything else. Rooker in this way does not make Bill's turn this simple revelation of a bad guy in the wings. Rooker instead offers a real humanity in the changes by showing Bill painfully taking each step from the doubting Thomas before becoming the full blown Judas. It's a terrific performance as Rooker realizes this arc so well within essentially the margins of the film.
After that scene though we see Ferrie in two distinct lenses though those of the past from the recollections of Garrison's witnesses, and the present with Garrison's few interactions with the man. In the flashback scenes we get quite a lot of classic Pesci in his realization of Dave Ferrie as the homosexual "bon vivant" and a military conspirator. Pesci portrays this in an interesting way as this mess of a man though in his mind yet somehow comforted within his place in his world. As the "bon vivant" Pesci actually elicits this overt comfort in the life projecting as a peacock showing Ferrie essentially where he seems most at home wholly being himself in the homosexual underground of New Orleans, rather than the awkward man we meet in Garrison's office. As the military conspirator Pesci is fantastic in delivery that trademark intensity of his of course in the moments of Ferrie going on his long flights of mental fancy that both take him towards killing Castro and eventually Kennedy. Pesci brings this extreme zealotry that he also plays with a certain intriguing duality. Pesci offers this clear conviction within his vicious words of anger and distress over being pulled from his anti-Castro efforts, but when it turns to Kennedy there is an even more obtuse quality Pesci infuses. It is this madness that Pesci finds of a man speaking words with a belief to be sure, but steeped in this insanity that suggests Ferrie doesn't even quite understand the full ramifications himself.
Those past scenes essentially are the seeds to the Ferrie we find in the present that Pesci gives us a proper paranoid mess when he contacts Garrison's men after their investigation, including his name, has leaked to the press. This leads to a stunning scene for Pesci's performance where he brings sort of that same visceral power to his work that was so remarkable in his Oscar winning performance, though translated here for a very different role and purpose. Pesci instead of using that for such an imposing figure, he instead brings that unpredictable violent energy in creating the extreme vulnerability of Ferrie in the moment. Everything about Pesci from his hastened tone of voice to his manic movements echo a man burdened by many things. We see the fear in his eyes in every reaction from every unknown that Pesci makes fitting to a man on the brink of some death, but within that we also have that burden of the past. Pesci creates this increased agitation within his physical portrayal of Ferrie as he begins seemingly to speak of his connection to the assassination. Pesci is astonishing in the way he captures this though as this stream of consciousness of a man neither healthy of body or mind. He constantly changes in these moments from second to second so naturally from moments seemingly of mania, to others of only of terror, and occasionally these wholly lucid moments that seem to reveal some of the secrets he holds. Pesci though always makes him the madness we saw before but amplified ten fold as he reveals the full weight of the assassination on Ferrie as he shows us a man struggling with both what he became a part of and his own actions. The most powerful moment of Pesci's incredible work though comes when Ferrie finally seems to come to calm with an instance of clarity. Pesci delivers this moment as Ferrie reflecting on his own guilt while seeming to look towards some other path he could have taken in his life. Pesci is downright heartbreaking in the moment by so quietly portraying this moment as this brief sobriety in an insane man, as he ponders on his desire to become a priest which never could have been. What makes the moment so poignant though is how naturally Pesci finds it through his vivid tragedy he creates of a man who essentially lost himself through the conspiracy.
I could frankly listen to Sutherland break down every single detail of the assassination by how well he phrases every single word. Sutherland brings more to the role than that, and I'm not just referring to his few flashback scenes where we get a more of the moment X as he reacts in confusion towards first being sent on a wild goose chase then later fear at discovering the assassination. Sutherland creates such varied demeanor that grants us a sense of X even as he never for a moment loses that dramatic thrust of his monologue that remain effortlessly compelling in his hands. There is a fascinating combination of tones that Sutherland realizes as this certain blithe quality within his work, suggesting properly a man long within the black ops, but somehow still the sense of severity of his words within this. Sutherland delivers this very controlled passion of a man adamant to let the right information out to Garrison while also still having just the right shred of indifference as though it is X's way of coping with the coup d'etat that he could do nothing to prevent. Sutherland brings this bluntness through this approach as both a man clearly concerned for what happened, but also with the sense to know there is very little he can do about what happened given the forces against him. Sutherland's work here is immaculate in not only just making every bit of exposition meaningful, but even still managing to make X more than a mere exposition machine. It is outstanding work from Sutherland as he leaves such an undeniable impression on the film in such short order. Sutherland again creates the sense of the greatness of this ensemble because he doesn't just serve his purpose within the film by making his scene fascinating, but also in turn makes X as fascinating as this mysterious presence within the film. His work creates a highlight within a film filled with highlights, and is one of Sutherland's best performances.