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
Poor Kevin Costner. I get the feeling that he just can't win no matter what he does. He gets slammed for being in films and not using an appropriate accent. Need we look any further than 'Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves'? When he does use an accurate accent, as he does in 'Thirteen Days,' he gets slammed for trying to elevate his game to a playing field dominated by more well liked method actors. I've heard an argument before that he should just stick to making westerns since, allegedly, they're the only films that he does well. Many would immediately argue that 'Wyatt Earp' cancels out 'Dances With Wolves.' I argue instead that people are just too hard on Kevin Costner and 'Thirteen Days' is a very good example of why he deserves a bit of a break.
'Thirteen Days' was the fastest two and a half hours that I've sat through in a long time. The film was absolutely engrossing and very tense. Everyone knows what happens (or should be able to infer it since we'd all be dead right now if things hadn't worked out so well) but the writing and direction deserve great credit. They were able to transfer the tension from the historical situation and bring it to the screen with electricity. I think it works brilliantly well for two main reasons: 1. The viewer may know what is going to happen, but the characters don't. They are stressed, terrified and at the breaking point. One wrong move and the whole world is obliterated. If that isn't good drama, I don't know what is. 2. The film makers very wisely resisted the impulse to try and show things from the Soviet point of view. The strength of the film is the peril of the situation and the terror of not knowing what the other guy is trying to do. By filming from solely an American perspective and keeping both the characters and audience in the dark, this character driven movie excels.
A second brilliant strategy employed by the film makers was in the casting. With the exception of Costner, there are no real stars. Instead there are more reliable, hard-working and chameleon-like character actors. Len Cariou, Dylan Baker, Stephen Culp, and Bruce Greenwood are just a small sampling. Greenwood plays JFK and excellently plays a man desperate for peace but surrounded by calls for swift military action. He sees the bigger picture where others don't, but may not be able to navigate the smaller picture without help. Dylan Baker is a doppelganger and his performance as McNamara is spot on.
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