Director Roger Donaldson and screenwriter David Self stay true to the details.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 500
Studio : New Line Cinema
Rating : PG-13
Running time : 2h25m
We never knew how close we came. Thirteen Days gives us
the story of
the power struggle that unfolded in the closely guarded Ex Comm meetings at the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Faithful to the books, tapes, and newly declassified documents that describe the situation, the movie makes it absolutely clear that human error and military/civilian jealousy nearly sent the world into nuclear conflagration. The understated film is a genuine historical thriller.
Canadian actor Bruce Greenwood stamps
the movie with credibility. Without mimicry, he has caught Kennedy's gestures as well as his way of
thinking in silence while others shred the air with argument. His is a fine performance
that allows the movie to become part of the historical record.
We can be grateful that the role of Kenny O'Donnell is not inflated to fit Kevin Costner,
the star who plays him. Costner, whose accents never work, plays O'Donnell, trusted White House secret keeper, with suitable calm. The rest of
the actors do an admirable job of breathing life into the men who spent thirteen days in secret deliberation.
Director Roger Donaldson and screenwriter David Self stay true to
the details. The president's Ex Comm group was a mix of military men and diplomats. When the room emptied each night, those who remained with JFK were Bobby Kennedy and Kenny O'Donnell. With varying degrees of humanity and self-interest,
the group tried to dig out of the crisis presented by 40 nearly operational missiles on Cuban soil.
Travel time from Cuba to any chosen U.S. target: five minutes.
By simple job definition,
the military must wait patiently
through warless years, waiting to do what they are trained for. General Maxwell Taylor, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and General Curtis ("We'll get those red bastards!") LeMay argued for airstrike and invasion. The Kennedys, O'Donnell, Adlai Stevenson, and Robert McNamara looked for alternatives in diplomacy and embargo.
Although he tries hard, actor Michael Fairman misses the irony and intellect of Adlai Stevenson. The Kennedys, who did not believe Stevenson was tough enough to play on
their team, were impatient with Stevenson's insistence on a diplomatic solution. In a verbal battle with Ambassador Zorin at
the U.N., he finally surprised them.
What is so chilling about this good movie is that even with a president who took full command after being humiliated by the Bay of Pigs,
the conflict was nearly ignited anyway by isolated human errors. Only Bobby Kennedy's insistence on answering the first, and less strident, of two Kruschchev letters broke the impasse.
You will remember the sight of JFK getting off a plane in Connecticut with a wave and a graceful joke as he stepped into his open car for
the motorcade ride to town. And you will be forgiven for hoping that the White House never harbors a man like General LeMay, who wants fervently to go to war without the faintest idea of what that means in the modern world.
Copyright (c) Illusion
Return to Ellis Home Page