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Film Review - Thirteen Days
The Cuban Missile Crisis has been very well documented. It has been published in books and on the screen. So why would you want to see Thirteen Days? This one turns up the heat.
Thirteen Days centers around three characters, President Kennedy, Bobby Kennedy, and Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), Special Assistant to the President; what we would in this day and age call White House Chief of Staff. O'Donnell is the person we follow around.
As the crisis unfolds, we see how the opposing political forces in the White House pull at the President. This story is less about the nuclear weapons in Cuba and more about the pressure cooker that the Oval Office becomes.
This is a long film (145 Minutes). What this length does is help make the audience feel how uncomfortable this crisis was. Unless a movie is really action-packed, people get fidgety after about 100 minutes. You say, "When is this going to be over?" Probably the players in the Cuban Missile Crisis were thinking the same. As Thirteen Days progresses, we see people begin to show the signs of intense stress. We also see that finally, the glimmer of hope appears, and that luckily people were not too tired to see a way out.
In 1974 the docu-drama The Missiles of October was aired on television. It attempted to show the Soviet point of view as well as the American. I've watched this film many times. Compared to Thirteen Days, The Missiles of October is a light-weight version of this story. In 1974 we were trying to find a way to live with the Soviets, and perhaps Detente, as well as the television network not wanting to scare the public to death, watered down the intensity of the crisis.
In contrast, Thirteen Days gives you the feeling, that President of the United States is not a fun job at all, and that we're all pretty lucky to be alive. It also makes you wonder what would have happened had Richard Nixon won the election.
One is a bit amused in the beginning of the film as we first hear Kevin Costner speak in the accent we associate with the Kennedy clan. This is not Costner's fault. It's just a different sound from him, and a much better job than his Robin Hood accent. Costner does a great job in this film. He's the perfect White House bulldog as the story opens. Throughout the crisis, he displays the pressure he's under staying perfectly in character.
Another aspect of this film I particularly enjoyed was the casting. Many of the actors physically resemble the people they are portraying - especially Walter Adrian who plays Lyndon Johnson. If we couldn't have cameras actually filming the real events, Thirteen Days feels very close in its re-creation. This makes the film worthy of use in history classes.
You're not going to feel good after seeing this picture. Some stories that aren't particularly happy ones, need to be dragged into the light every now and again so we do not forget the lesson learned.
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Released in 2000
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Reviewed by Mongo