Thirteen Days was a wonderfully acted, wonderfully told story about the 13 days of the Cuban Missile Crisis, a time when the world almost came to an end. Shown through the eyes of
presidential aide Kenneth P. O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), we see the inner workings of President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) and his closest advisors as they try and find the best way to end a potentially devastating showdown with the U.S.S.R.
In October of 1962, the U.S., during a regular mission photographing Cuba, spotted a missile buildup by the Russians. The missiles were powerful enough to kill 80 million Americans with only 5 minutes of warning time. President Kennedy had to decide quickly what action to take. With his trusted aide Kenny O'Donnell and his brother Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp), and others such as Robert McNamara, Adlai Stevenson, McGeorge Bundy, Dean Acheson, Dean Rusk, and many more, Kennedy needed to figure out the best course of action. If he allowed the Russians to aim these missiles at the U.S., the United States would be placed in a potentially deadly situation. If Kennedy allowed the military to attack the missiles and destroy them, what would Russia do as a response? If he waited too long, would Russia simply attack the U.S.? If he backed down and agreed to take down U.S. missiles in Turkey, would the U.S. then look weak to the rest of the world? For such a young President, Kennedy had a lot of tough decisions to make, in a short amount of time, with the world hanging in the balance.
I am not old enough to remember the Cuban Missile Crisis as it occurred, so seeing Thirteen Days was like having a history lesson at the same time as having great entertainment. Even though I knew that we didn't end up in World War III, there were a lot of things I didn't know. I won't go into any of the specifics, but I never fully understood how close we came to destroying the planet. The tensions of the time were brought out successfully by director Roger Donaldson. You could see and feel the sweat on all the major players as each minute ticked by. Bruce Greenwood did a tremendous job as the young President Kennedy, showing how Kennedy was strong enough to stand by his morals and values, even as his most trusted advisors were urging him to go to war. At the same time, Greenwood was able to portray Kennedy as someone who needed help and was able to turn to his brother for guidance. Kevin Costner did a good job as Kennedy's presidential aide. Other than dealing with his painful Boston accent, Costner was a strong personality that worked well with Greenwood and Steven Culp. I believed that the three of them were friends for 15 years and that they trusted each other with their own lives. Other acting standouts to me were Dylan Baker as Robert McNamara and Michael Fairman as Adlai Stevenson.
Even running at almost two and a half hours, I was always at the edge of my seat, wondering what was going to happen next. Like I said before, I'm not old enough to remember the time, nor was it something I ever learned about in school, so I had no idea what was going to happen. It was nice being able to get deep inside the mind of these important people during this crucial time. Of course, I have no idea if what was said during these meetings was actually said in real life, but I'd like to believe that at least the outcomes of the meetings were true. I'm a big fan of these kinds of dramatic films based on real life events. While being entertaining, they also have the ability to teach you about history. Reading about these situations in books isn't nearly as enjoyable as being able to watch them on screen. I think screenwriter David Self did a great job of bringing these real life events to life on the big screen. He made it historical but didn't bore you with too much talk or information. Along with Donaldson, he gave you what you needed to know, and let the actors bring you into the action.
So overall, I thought Thirteen Days was a great film. Well acted, well directed, well written, nice musical score and very entertaining throughout. And if you happen to learn something along the way like I did, then even better.
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A Memoir of the
Cuban Missile Crisis
JFK - Special Edition
Release Date: February 6, 2001
Seven - New Line
© 2001 Wolfpack Productions