FOR THIRTEEN EXTRAORDINARY DAYS IN OCTOBER 1962, THE WORLD STOOD ON THE BRINK OF AN UNTHINKABLE CATASTROPHE. AFTER THE DISCOVERY OF SOVIET WEAPONS IN CUBA, EVENTS AND TENSION ESCALATE BETWEEN TWO MILITARY SUPERPOWERS AND W... more »ITHIN THE WHITE HOUSE.« less
"I remember studying the Cuban Missile Crisis in college, in a class on group dynamics and groupthink. It is such a remarkably involving event, I was a bit apprehensive going into the film, as Hollywood often manages to suck the life out of inherently thrilling stories. Luckily, they get this one right. While it is not historically accurate, I didn't care, because the story this film tells preserves the essence of the event, the tension in the White House as two superpowers danced at the edge of World War III, and the type of individual heroism and leadership it probably took to save us from ourselves.The story is told from the perspective of Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), given an inflated role as the advisor to President Kennedy and confidant of both John and Bobby. Telling the story from his perspective is a good one, as it allows us to view John and Bobby as the larger than life heroes they were. Costner's faux Bostonian accent is so lousy as to cause hysterical laughter from my friends and I as the film started, but thankfully Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp outshine him with remarkably charismatic portrayals of John and Bobby. I wasn't alive when Kennedy was president, but after watching Greenwood's performance I can understand why so many look to Kennedy as our last great president. Surrounded by military chiefs of staff rabid to go to war with the Russians, the Kennedy's and O'Donnell find the courage to follow their better judgment and inspire enough decent men around them to steer both sides to a peaceful resolution. This is filmmaking about the clash of strong personalities in a group setting, like Twelve Angry Men, or Glengarry Glen Ross, or Fail Safe. I find the subject fascinating.A few other minor quibbles: occasionally the film switches to black and white, ostensibly to heighten the sense of historical accuracy, but it just looked like we were watching a studio screener copy of the film to me. That could have been left out. Also, occasionally the director Roger Donaldson inserts scenes with O'Donnell hanging out with his family, brooding over their well-being, with head in hand and furrowed brow. They feel like attempts to conjure up some of the tension that common American families felt during the event, but Costner no longer has the dramatic presence to pull them off, and I would have preferred Donaldson narrow his focus to stay within the confines of the White House. But those are minor quibbles. Dylan Baker plays Defense Secretary Robert McNamara wonderfully, and it's amazing how much Culp and Baker resemble Bobby Kennedy and McNamara. I left the film wishing that presidential candidates like George Bush or Al Gore had half the charisma of Greenwood's JFK. Ah, but isn't that always the case with presidents in the movies? If you find yourself fascinated by the Cuban Missile Crisis after watching the film, pick up the book from which some of the film's events were pulled, "The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis." It provides a more historically accurate and just as compelling examination of the event."
Fine political thriller
Christine MacDonald | Mt. Airy, MD United States | 06/07/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"I saw this film in the theaters and was very disappointed that it was not a major hit; although I think I know why. This is definitely a character and dialogue-driven historical drama. Not your run-of-the-mill mind-blowing blockbuster type of film! I believe this film will play very nicely in DVD or video form where it's quiet drama will play itself better. I was VERY disappointed that Bruce Greenwood was not nominated for an academy award (there were rumors this may happen) because I believe his performance was as good if not better than the men that were nominated. His JFK was, in my humble opinion, perfect. I found this film compelling, well written, and dramatic. I especially enjoyed the scenes where Kenny O'Donnell (K. Costner) went to church and went to see his son play ball. Can you just imagine what you would feel if you thought the end of the world may happen? As I watched this movie, I thought it was a shame that the movie-going generation of today did not take the time to watch it. To them, this is history of long ago; to many others, it is a lesson worth watching and remembering.This is also, quite frankly, a wonderful and entertaining piece of cinema. Give it the chance it deserves."
Redeemed by video/Faith In The Movie Going Public
kirk colton | Ogden, Utah | 05/24/2001
(4 out of 5 stars)
"Hopefully, this movie will recieve more exposure on home video than it did theatrically. The manner in which the public ignored this movie has given me serious doubts about films of the future. I mean. Pearl Harbor will probably be insultingly inaccurate about history and prove to be one of the biggest films of all time. Thirteen Days on the other hand played it as straight as a hollywood movie could and just tanked. Thirteen Days has flaws. The history favors the Kennedys a bit much. The movie uses some bizarre stylistic choices. But one thing the film does that most political thrillers fail at is to show how complicated, intense and most of all important the art of negotiation is. Sure the film portrays the military brass as being war mongers. But damn by the end of the film if I didn't feel like my life could be drastically different now(I was born in 69) if the war mongers had won in the cabinet meetings. Very powerful stuff. Dr Strangelove with it's dark edged satire might have been more effective in scaring me about the horrors of nuclear war. Fail Safe might have done a better job of showing how close we came to oblivion. But Thirteen Days gave me the optimism in knowing that from now on when war is always an option, the art of negotiation is ultimately a more powerful tool.One more thing. Michael Delucca was an executive producer of this movie. Delucca always takes chances. Maybe that is why some of my favorite contemporary films(Seven, Magnolia, Dark City) have been produced by him. He was let go from New Line. Whoever hires this guy will end up releasing great films. end kdc"
Riveting Drama That Brings History To Life
Reviewer | 07/16/2001
(5 out of 5 stars)
"Throughout the Twentieth Century, misjudgment-- the failure of one side to extrapolate the position of the other side-- has resulted in every major war from WWI to the Korean conflict. And no one was more aware of this than President John F. Kennedy, when in October of 1962, photographs taken by an American U-2 spy plane uncovered the existence of Russian surface-to-surface missiles being deployed in Cuba; missiles with a range that encompassed every major city in the U.S., with the exception of Seattle. "Thirteen Days," directed by Roger Donaldson, is a chronicle of two of the most intense, significant weeks in the history of America, as well as U.S./Soviet relations. Thirteen days that came down to a twelve to twenty-four hour period that could have changed the world as we know it today. Working from an intelligent, well-researched and accurate screenplay by David Self, Donaldson takes you behind the closed doors of the White House and conference rooms in which the fate of the nation was ultimately decided. The outcome is, of course, a matter of history, but the process which led to the final conclusion is intense, riveting drama that in the end illuminates just how close the world was brought to the brink of nuclear war by the Cuban Missile Crisis. Much of the tension in the film is derived and enhanced by the fact that it only gives the perspective of the Americans; but rather than making it a stilted, biased account, however, it becomes an objective, thoroughly engrossing presentation, and the fact that the viewer knows only what Kennedy knew puts you in the room with him, so to speak, and allows you to experience the process of assimilating the information, of extrapolating with Kennedy and ultimately making one of the most monumental decisions in history. The story unfolds through the eyes of Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), special advisor to the President, long time friend of the family and a trusted member of the Kennedy inner-circle. The film accurately establishes O'Donnell's position without embellishing his role simply for dramatic effect; he serves as something of a "tour guide," through whom you gain access to the drama playing out behind the curtain. That he is a close friend of the Kennedys is reflected in many scenes in which O'Donnell, Jack and Bobby are alone together. And since the story is told from O'Donnell's point-of-view, naturally his is a significant role; the film very subtly goes to great lengths, however, to establish the fact that within the conference rooms or during the meetings in the Oval Office, O'Donnell is kept at arm's length and, though present, is not a direct participant. Costner gives what is arguably one of the best performances of his career in this film, successfully capturing the essence of O'Donnell in an understated, subtle way that works extremely well and serves the story effectively. He's clearly the star of the picture, though much of what he does is on the sidelines, which keeps the focus on Kennedy and the magnitude of the situation at hand. Costner has drawn criticism in some quarters with regards to the distinctive New England accent he affects in the film, but the criticism is unwarranted; you have only to hear a tape of the real O'Donnell to realize how accurate Costner's portrayal is, up to and including the accent. Donaldson and the producers of this film realized that for it to really have an impact, the roles of JFK and RFK, especially, had to be cast with great care; for the film to be believable and to maintain that focus on the story, the Kennedys had to be believable, otherwise the effect would be significant to the point of distraction. And their meticulous efforts and hard work paid off. Bruce Greenwood gives an excellent performance as John Kennedy, from the accent to the body language and mannerisms he affects that so defined him. And Steven Culp is perfect as Bobby, imbuing his performance with nuance and an eye for detail that convincingly brings him to life. The outstanding supporting cast includes Dylan Baker (McNamara), Henry Strozier (Rusk), Frank Wood (Bundy), Len Cariou (Acheson), Bill Smitrovich (General Taylor), Kevin Conway (General LeMay) and Kelly Connell (Salinger). During the strife of the Civil War, the nation was preserved because the right man, Abraham Lincoln, was in the right place at the right time; and in retrospect, the same can be said of John F. Kennedy and the Cuban Missile Crisis. As Kennedy said, if we fail to comprehend the Soviets, and they don't understand us, the result will be tragic; and though the controversy of politics is inescapable, and there will always be two sides with opposing views, this film succinctly demonstrates that in this instance, it all came down to the decision of one man who proved he had the vision and the determination to do the right thing. And anyone who disputes it need only be reminded that, in fact, that is the Sun you see shining through your own window every morning."
mysanthropyk_overlord | USA | 06/25/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"My favorite film!
This fascinating political suspense flick serves as a tribute to the fine work that President Kennedy and his advisors did, amidst military pressures for war, during the thirteen days of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. Now, I wasn't around in '62, but it seems quite accurate from my point of view. In fact, the biggest 'mess-up' I could pick out was a quick glimpse of a C-130 Hercules (cargo plane) taxiing, wearing the current USAF paint scheme and not the 1960's SEA (Southeast Asia) camouflage or old Military Airlift Command colors! The computer-generated aircraft scenes did a little to detract from the realism, but there are no RF-8s, U-2Cs, or F-101s still flying, so at least the producers took the time to make the aircraft accurate. I did like the Vietnam-era carrier footage and the aircraft scrambles, however! Those were the real thing! By the way, if you haven't noticed, I'm quite the aviation nut. The cast line-up was pretty impressive: Kevin Costner as special assistant to the president Kenny O'Donnell, Bruce Greenwood as JFK, Steven Culp (best known for his role as Clayton Webb on "J.A.G.") as Bobby Kennedy, Bill Smitrovich as Gen. Maxwell Taylor, Elya Baskin as Soviet Ambassador Dobrynin, and a selection of other fine actors. This is probably the most underrated film I know of, and I highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the Cuban missile crisis or who enjoys political dramas."