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Overall Rating

Awesome: 41.86%
Worth A Look52.33%
Average: 4.65%
Pretty Bad: 0%
Total Crap: 1.16%

5 reviews, 56 user ratings

13 Days
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by EricDSnider

"He was a mediocre president, but this movie sure rocks."
5 stars

An Australian-born director (Roger Donaldson) and a Canadian-born actor (Bruce Greenwood) are the driving forces behind a taut, enthralling film depiction ("Thirteen Days") of a tense moment in American history (the Cuban blockade of 1962).

An Australian-born director (Roger Donaldson) and a Canadian-born actor (Bruce Greenwood) are the driving forces behind a taut, enthralling film depiction ("Thirteen Days") of a tense moment in American history (the Cuban blockade of 1962).

It's a brilliant film that can make little-considered pieces of real life out to be the most important moments in history, and "Thirteen Days" is close to being brilliant.

The Cuban Missile Crisis is a well-known incident, perhaps mainly because it's one of only a handful of administrative episodes we have for our most romanticized president, John F. Kennedy. (Without this, there's just the Bay of Pigs and the assassination.) "Thirteen Days," however, makes the point that we should know about the event not out of a desire to remember JFK, but because we darn near went to war over it.

At the height of the Cold War, in October 1962, American spy planes discovered missiles being prepared for use in Cuba -- something the Soviets promised they would never do. Missiles that close, well, they could kill Americans; the U.S.S.R. now had first-strike capabilities.

Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp) and adviser Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner) are the three men on whom it falls to figure out what to do -- but especially JFK, whom Greenwood plays as a passionate dramatic hero, his large, young-looking blue eyes filled with both worry and strength.

Plenty of guys in suits and military uniforms give a number of options, none of which seems likely to work. If we try diplomacy, the missiles become operational in the meantime. If we sneak in and destroy them, Russia retaliates by attacking Berlin. If we make a deal with the Soviets, we look like we're willing to trade others' safety in exchange for our own.

It comes down to two decisions: an all-out air strike, which will almost certainly lead to World War III; or a blockade, which will stop new ships from entering Cuba without necessarily getting rid of the missiles already there.

JFK goes with the blockade -- but since a blockade is an act of war, he calls it a "quarantine." And it still doesn't solve the problem, which is going to take unflinching strength, diplomacy and a little compromise.

Adlai Stevenson's (Michael Fairman) U.N. dialogue with the Soviet ambassador is straight from the transcript, and there is actual footage of people reacting to the news of the blockade, as well as a few reassuring but cautious words from Walter Cronkite. This goes a long way toward establishing the film as real history and not some made-up drama with a labyrinthine plot. (Historical crises are allowed to be twisty-turny and never-ending; we prefer fictional ones to be a little neater.)

Director Roger Donaldson and screenwriter David Self make some other wise choices, too. O'Donnell's family is only in a few scenes; this is NOT a film about how Kevin Costner's movie relatives were affected by a national crisis. Kevin Costner is kept to a minimum, too. His character probably should be a bigger figure in the action, but Costner is so devoid of screen presence these days that even though he's almost always in the scene, you often forget he's there. (He's too overshadowed by the dynamic duo of Greenwood and Culp, anyway, and his Boston accent is laughable. The actors who play his kids do a better job.)

Also admirable is the noticeable lack of Beach Boys songs on the radio or other "this is 1962" bits of nostalgia. Those things are fine for a movie meant to evoke a particular time period. But "Thirteen Days," while firmly entrenched in 1960s Cold War politics, is more a timeless example of courage under fire than anything.

Few films over 140 minutes in length justify their massiveness, but this one does. No scenes are wasted. A large cast of stellar actors make even one-scene characters come to life, from Karen Ludwig as a saucy White House operator to Madison Mason as a U.S. pilot saddled with the responsibilty of taking more spy pictures of a now-dangerous Cuba.

One questions Anderson's apparently arbitrary use of black-and-white, and the few scenes we do see with O'Donnell's family take away more than they add. But those turn out to be minor complaints about a movie that is, overall, absolutely electric.

Kevin Costner should return to his "Robin Hood" method of not even attempting an accent. Overlook that, though, and you've got yourself quite an enthralling motion picture.

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originally posted: 02/05/01 15:39:54
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User Comments

3/19/08 Abhishek Chakraborty This movie rules 5 stars
1/03/08 ariel Im doin a report on this movie and i thought it was easy to compare to the actual event. 4 stars
1/29/07 Matt Edge-of-seat stuff even though we know the outcome. Greenwood is a great JFK. 5 stars
10/20/06 MP Bartley Ramps up the tension masterfully, with a great sense of period. Cast is wonderful. 5 stars
6/15/05 Courtney Colbow Sourceful 4 stars
2/26/05 Carl Great Movie 5 stars
5/27/04 Jose great movie, but for a history class only 4 stars
5/06/04 Desperado Where have you gone Jack and Bobby? oh what we could have accomplished, incredible movie 5 stars
12/03/03 nicole rob great! 5 stars
3/24/03 Jack Sommersby A masterpiece of high-tension drama and richly observed dramatics. A monumental achievement 5 stars
8/22/02 Sully when the fuck did JFK become a pussy? And those accents were terrible. OK flick. 3 stars
6/24/02 Baal Great movie! Awesome DVD! Very enjoyable. 5 stars
6/02/02 Chris The West Wing movie with JFK. I happen to love The West Wing, alot. 5 stars
5/21/02 Shrike I generally appreciate Costner's work and this is one of his best 4 stars
5/10/02 paul corbett It Was a good movie 5 stars
3/17/02 FlaFan One of Costner's best. He can be proud of his role in getting this to the screen. 5 stars
3/11/02 R.W. Welch Compelling account of the Missle Crisis, astutely done with a minimum of Hollywood hokum. 5 stars
2/22/02 Jeff all around excellent movie 5 stars
1/15/02 Sparky Polastri Fantastic flick to see once; w/all thats going on now, its even more interesting 5 stars
10/06/01 Obi Wan Great!!! Loved it!! I've watched this few times already and I just got the DVD! 5 stars
9/11/01 The Bomb 69 the Infinifilm DVD made this story so much more enjoyable, Costner's accent sux!!! 4 stars
9/04/01 phil m. afficiando Boring? Hmm..I'm 20, draft eligible, the world nearly got nuked. Needed what? Kung fu, sex? 5 stars
8/31/01 Bueller History buffs will love this. Costner shouldn't try to do a Boston accent. Very enjoyable. 4 stars
8/29/01 BRIAN HUDSON BORING 3 stars
8/28/01 Monday Morning Fascinating diplomatic, political and military "inside stories". 5 stars
8/20/01 Dimitris Spiropoulos See it again! 5 stars
8/13/01 G. Smith Very interesting. Very good for a Hollywood film. Better than "Pearl Harbor." 4 stars
8/07/01 J Personally I find it overrated and its accurancy is questionable. But its not bad. 3 stars
7/28/01 Steve A political thriller... never saw that one coming. Surprisingly good movie! 4 stars
7/24/01 The Castle Bookroom politics / personality / history drama of the highest order 5 stars
7/14/01 2DOGS Best suspense/drama I have seen in a while 4 stars
5/09/01 viking Better than Oliver Stone's JFK extravaganza. 4 stars
5/07/01 Belinda Did not understand what the hell was going on. Totally lost.! 1 stars
5/04/01 matthew smith an engrossing film 5 stars
5/01/01 Vanessa Balanced and truthful view of events focussing on the issue not the JFK /Jackie legend etc 4 stars
4/09/01 Gary I am a sucker for history movies and this one was another good one although boring a little 4 stars
2/25/01 Sophia Though I lived through it, I was still on the edge of my seat 5 stars
2/23/01 eugene Great movie, well-acted, historically accurate. Dump Costner though... 4 stars
2/16/01 The Evil Penguin "I was gonna eat that". 4 stars
2/12/01 Alyssa The reason Costner needs to stick with historicals. 5 stars
2/09/01 glo interesting movie. 4 stars
2/08/01 ObiWan Absolutely intense thriller. Steven Culp was great as Bobby Kennedy. 5 stars
2/06/01 Obi Wan Loved it. Great flick, a sleeper in my eyes. Will be overlooked due to highly marketed BS 5 stars
2/04/01 Benjamin Lesbian Fucking Awesome 5 stars
2/01/01 R Kramer If you love history you'll enjoy this film. 4 stars
1/24/01 Lord Raymos Bad accent, random b&w, but exciting and suspensful. 4 stars
1/24/01 Shawna It was very exciting! I'm not into history, but I really enjoyed this movie. 5 stars
1/23/01 Gail Incredible performances from everyone, especially Steven Culp; powerful and gripping. 5 stars
1/17/01 Jes Very Historically accurate... 5 stars
1/15/01 ThEoNe3510 Great performances across the board (especially Greenwood), solid direction, taut script... 5 stars
1/15/01 Alyssa Costner needs to stick with historicals. Edge of your seat good. Acting hit the mark. 5 stars
1/14/01 frankko even though costner is in it, it's still a fine film. 4 stars
1/13/01 Will that was pretty harrowing and interesting. 4 stars
1/12/01 Gariess Points for reminding us that there are always high ranking whackos in the Pentagon. 3 stars
1/05/01 Harlan Pepper Accurate? I dunno. Worth Seeing? Absolutely. 4 stars
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  12-Jan-2001 (PG-13)


  03-May-2001 (M)

Directed by
  Roger Donaldson

Written by
  David Self

  Kevin Costner
  Bruce Greenwood
  Steven Culp
  Dylan Baker
  Lucinda Jenney
  Peter White

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