Film Reviews

THIRTEEN DAYS

By • Dec 25th, 2000 •

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New Line Cinema / PG-13 / 145 min

So this Cuban thing with the missiles, it happened 8 years before I was born. Basically, if you’re below the age of 50 it probably doesn’t live in your memory as a ‘real’ event, but more likely as a history lesson taught in a college class. 13 Days, the true story of how our country came closer to nuclear war than ever before, or since, is clearly the perfect film to cap the past millennium and raise historical awareness as we enter the next. I’m certainly not a Kevin Costner fan, but this work returns him to his rightful place in the history of cinema, with his previous Oscar caliber roles. However this is the type of movie, which doesn’t need awards for validation. It’s more important than any award could even begin to symbolize.

Considering how the prospects of an older demographic (50+) audience tend to kill projects in Hollywood, 13 Days is a testament to the will of the producers. Word on the street is that it’s also skewing younger and pulling in a larger audience of viewers like myself (18-49). The key to this cross-generational interest is summed up by producer Peter Almond who remarked, “We wanted to give these events a present, driving action that allows audiences a view of what it felt like from the inside, to experience viscerally the remarkable human pressure of the crisis and how these vital decisions weighed on these young men in unimaginable ways. Thanks to all the input from those who lived it first hand, there’s a real sense of watching the major moments of the crisis unfold through the eyes of an immediate participant.”

For the uninitiated, i.e. <50 folks, the film works on two levels. First is the extraordinary experience of heart-racing crisis-upon-crisis-upon-crisis without ANY resolution in sight. The second is the realization that this actually happened. I'm sure for those who were conscious during this period in 1962 it must evoke the feelings of pure panic that gripped the world at the time. The fresh style of seeing the events unfold through the experience of Kenny O'Donnell, Special Assistant to The President, played by Costner, also bolsters the narrative by not making John F. Kennedy the central protagonist. Screenwriter David Self performed exhaustive research including first-person interviews, reviewing memoirs and listening to White House tapes. Regarding his stylistic choice he remarked, "O'Donnell was one of President Kennedy's most trusted advisors and he was the perfect person to use as a creative vehicle to take us through this pivotal time in history." Director Roger Donaldson should certainly be nominated in the spring, as he captured so much of the tension without expository dialogue. Seeing the clock tick down as the blockade against Cuba commences, with Russian freighters chugging toward American warships, makes you feel like a spectator on Main Street in Tombstone at high noon. Bruce Greenwood is superb as J.F.K., who without uttering a word at times speaks silent volumes. Kevin Conway scared me more than anything Freddy Krueger could dream up, as General Curtis LeMay, who seems poised to disregard JFK and just start bombing. Likewise, Steven Culp, portraying Robert Kennedy, isn't just poised, but blatantly announces his idea to perform a reverse coup and summarily eliminate the Joint Chiefs. I can't say how happy it makes me to see a movie with JFK in it, that doesn't concern his assassination or even hint at any of the conspiracy theories concerning it. Clearly he was his own man, and not a puppet of the industrial-military-complex, so he and Bobby definitely made enemies. It's a sad state if all we have to remember him by is his assassination and not a separate and distinct picture of his character at its Finest hour. 13 Days shows this man had a set of brass-balls that make Glen-Gary leads look like children's diapers. In the end Castro is the big winner, and if anything it makes me aware that to this day we are still engaged in the political equivalent of a scorned bully mentality. We will do business with China but not with our little communist neighbors 90 miles off the coast of Florida. C'mon guys the cold war is over, break out the Cuban cigars and be glad we're not all dead.


Credits:
Written by David Self
Based on Material by Ernest R. May & Philip D. Zelikow
Directed by Roger Donaldson
Produced by Peter O. Almond, Armyan Bernstein & Kevin Costner
Executively Produced by Marc Abraham, Thomas A. Bliss and Michael De Luca

Cast:
Kevin Costner
Bruce Greenwood
Steven Culp

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One Response »

  1. Ever since the Cold War, relations with Cuba and America have been sour and restricted and this movie explains why. Though many American love Cuba, they cannot import anything or even travel directly to Cuba. That is why Cuban cigars are sold in the black market in America. Many people either have to pay twice what the cigars are worth or are fooled into buying knock-offs of the Cuban cigars. Lucky for me I don’t have to go through the trouble of finding a dealer to sell me Cubans or worry about getting ripped off. A friend of mine told me about this site where they sell all types of premium Cuban cigars at a very reasonable price (they also have free delivery!!!). The site is gocubans.com if anyone is interested. But hopefully now that Obama is here he can make peace with Cuba and start trading.

    Excellent Movie by the way.

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