Published on January 16th, 2009 | by Chris0
Thirteen Days (2000)
The closest the world ever came to all-out nuclear war, when the clock read two minutes to midnight, and the nation held its breath... Those Thirteen Days in October of 1962 will forever live in history as the height of the cold war, and a landmark of a situation never to get into again.
So, you might be thinking to yourself, how can a movie which primarily takes place behind closed White House doors and is mostly comprised of talking heads be any good? Well, this one is. Mainly because its just plain well done, from a production standpoint especially, but also in some well-cast and believable roles.
I'm not even going to try to outline the plot here, that's a known part of history, and if you're unfamiliar with it, just do a search on Wikipedia for "Cuban Missile Crisis" for starters. That should tell you all you need to know. The short version is this: The Soviet Union deploys medium range nuclear missiles into Cuba, and the ensuing diplomatic battle which ensued basically defined the Cold War as we'll remember it. The movie basically chronicles in a 'docu-drama' style the entire chain of events, from the first U-2 photos of the missile installations, to the final agreement by the Soviets to dismantle them.
White House aid Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner) is the "focus" of the story, that is, its through his eyes primarily the story is told, and such, we get to know his family and a look into the feelings of everyday Americans during the situation.
But the scope of the entire picture is what is amazing. I will pit this film up against such docu-dramas as "Tora! Tora! Tora!" and "The Longest Day" any time. From the White House, to the O'Donnell house, to Cuba and the surrounding waters, Air Force bases, the UN... everything in this movie just looks great.
And the cast. You'll have to go read up on IMDB about everyone involved, but suffice it to say that every major player in the incident is represented here, from President Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), Robert Kennedy (an excellent casting move with Steven Culp), Robert McNamara (Dylan Baker), Adlai Stevenson (Michael Fairman)... the list goes on and on. All of which were mostly good to excellent. Huge kudos to Culp who pulled off one of the more convincing Bobby Kennedy's I've seen. Normally I like Costner (yes I said it, I'm a Costner fanboy!) but here I wasn't too impressed with his interpretation of "the" accent. Greenwood did an OK job most of the time, with a few stellar moments.
What keeps the movie from getting too dull with all the talking heads is timely exits to other key events, such as actually seeing the crews fueling up the Cuban missiles, the Air Force bases, the U-2 vs. SAM battle, the entire blockade sequence. Without these I don't think it would have been the movie it was.
I would highly recommend this film to anyone, especially for a history class or the like. Apart from a few unavoidable spats of profanity there's nothing in here to keep Thirteen Days out of the classroom.
Speaking of which, here's the U-2 vs. SAM sequence I was talking about. Which never happened. Really!
And the trailer, which should give you a good idea.
Summary: The closest the world ever came to all-out nuclear war, when the clock read two minutes to midnight, and the nation held its breath... Those Thirteen Days in October of 1962 will forever live in history as the height of the cold war, and a landmark of a situation never to get into again.