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
I watched this movie today with a number of students from my International Politics class, and from the standpoint of a politics professor, this film was absolutely extraordinary. This is a movie about the development of foreign policy in a crisis; it spells out with brilliant detail the decision-making process of JFK's inner circle, the tension between the Executive Office of the President and the Departments of State and Defense, and the attempts by the Military Industrial Complex (namely the Joint Chiefs) to undermine the diplomatic approaches favored by the president. It highlights the conflict between military standard operating procedures ("rules of engagement") and the better judgment/common sense of right-thinking human beings. It hints at conspiracies to (later) depose and otherwise get rid of both Kennedy and Khruschev from within for what turned out to be a very unpopular resolution with the hardliners on both sides. I especially like that the movie acknowledged the humanity of the individual decision-makers without getting too Capra-esquire or preachy.
I can see why this film hasn't been a great commercial success. It is not your standard big studio fare. It's quite cerebral, and although it has some exciting pre-conflict scenes, it's not a "war film". (It reminds me a bit of "Three Kings" in that regard- both films were, in my opinion, mis-marketed. They both seemed to target the younger male action crowd, when both movies are really made for a more intellectual audience.) I liked how the Soviets were not cartoonishly vilified, as is common in a lot of Cold War era films. They were shown to be somewhat calculating and strategic, but not irrational or more importantly, inhuman. In fact, one of the most fascinating parts of the film is the revelation that both sides lack information as to the other side's true intentions. It was this uncertainty that back in October 1962, could have led to the end of civilization as we know it.
The acting was solid (Steven Culp was very, very good as Robert Kennedy- so good, in fact, that I'm afraid he'll have a hard time getting cast in the future. There was audible gasp in the audience when he came on the screen and WAS Bobby). Coaster's accent was actually annoying (as an earlier reviewer noted), but it's forgivable in light of the moving, somewhat understated performance he turns in. It is the directing that takes the cake, however. From the moment the chain of events was set in motion, the tension does NOT let up. It actually feels like you are back in 1962 living through the events of those two weeks- honestly, there was nary a moment to relax until the resolution was wrought. I recommend this film especially strongly to high school and college age students who are too young to have any Cold War memory, as well as to those who lived through the era and may have forgotten what it felt like to come this close.
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