A high school swim champion with a troubled past enrolls in the U.S. Coast Guard's "A" School, where legendary rescue swimmer Ben Randall teaches him some hard lessons about loss, love, and self-sacrifice.
In October, 1962, U-2 surveillance photos reveal that the Soviet Union is in the process of placing nuclear weapons in Cuba. These weapons have the capability of wiping out most of the Eastern and Southern United States in minutes if they become operational. President John F. Kennedy and his advisors must come up with a plan of action against the Soviets. Kennedy is determined to show that he is strong enough to stand up to the threat, and the Pentagon advises U.S. military strikes against Cuba--which could lead the way to another U.S. invasion of the island. However, Kennedy is reluctant to follow through, because a U.S. invasion could cause the Soviets to retaliate in Europe. A nuclear showdown appears to be almost inevitable. Can it be prevented? Written by
It is truly amazing the amount of tension Roger Donaldson manages to wring out of this 40 year old story of the Cuban Missile Crisis, even though we already know the ending. In the theaters this film was my choice for picture of the year for 2000 and on several top ten lists. Now on video, even at second viewer it remains awesome in its power to capture the moment when the world almost ended. Long time Aussie transplant, Donaldson re-teams with the leading man in his 1987 hit No Way Out, Kevin Costner, who also serves as co-producer, to deliver one of the best build political true to life thrillers of all time. The film won several second tier nominations and picked up awards for editing and its peace content (from the Political Film society no less) plus an award for the man who is the real star of the film, Costner's broad as a baked bean "Baaaaaw-stin" accent aside. Canadian Bruce Greenwood is riveting, powerful and fascinating as the man of the hour, John F. Kennedy, a president with the fate of the world on his hands and a cabinet full of warhawks anxious to pull the trigger on their rack full of A-bombs once the Soviets started planting nukes in Cuba. Greenwood eerily channels JFK onto the screen both sounding and looking astonishingly like the 1962 Kennedy and Steven Culp as RFK is an equally impressive mimic. At first it is almost impossible to focus on the action whenever Greenwood is on the screen, the impersonation is that uncanny. Many people, including Entertainment Weekly, championed Greenwood for lead and/or supporting Oscar nods and were surprised when he was left out. But the success of the film is more a casting stunt. David Self's script skillfully converts anecdotes into actions and converts the sprawling events of 13 of the most documented days in world history into a comprehensible two and a half hour narrative flow. Donaldson and editor Conrad Buff (who picked up a Golden Satellite Award for his work here) work all the angles: mixing film stocks, jump and dissolve cuts, rapid fire editing during high tension scenes and a cute trick of fading from black and white to color during a scene which along with the photo-realism images of Greenwood and Culp often leave the viewer wondering if they're watching a movie or a newsreel (real tape of Kennedy speaking is mixed in so skillfully you can't always tell whether it's Greenwood or Kennedy speaking). Donaldson does not take the potential of thermal nuclear annihilation lightly and neither does his film. With frequent legitimate shots of blossoming mushroom clouds (they blew up an awful lot of nukes in those days), Donaldson constantly reminds us what the stakes were when the cold war heated up to a near inferno and our two nations stood eyeball to eyeball hoping someone would have sense enough to blink.
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