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Dan the Man's Movie Reviews

All my aimless thoughts, ideas, and ramblings, all packed into one site!

Thirteen Days (2000)


Next time, let’s just take all of the nuclear devices away from possible enemies.

For thirteen very long, very crucial, and very tense days in October of 1962, the world stood on the brink of an unthinkable catastrophe. While there were plenty of questions in the air, almost nobody had a single answer, which is what kept the world, or most especially, the United States, on the edge of their toes, taking each and every precaution there was. Of course,I’m speaking of the apocalyptic nuclear exchange between the United States and the Soviet Union, which would turn out to be the “Cuban Missile Crisis”, and it was an issue that was fought long and hard, from just about every person in the White House at that time. There was, obviously, President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) who, when he wasn’t facing controversies surrounding his risque personal life, also had a lot to handle with being the positive face of the country. However, there were more powers at-work than just JFK when it came to this crisis of sorts. There was the Special Assistant to the President, Kenneth O’Donnell (Kevin Costner), who was also dealing with some troubles at home, as well as Attorney General Bobby Kennedy (Steven Culp), who was clearly in the shadow of his brother, but also was trying to find a way to solve each and every issue in his own way, while maintaining a level head.

Who can out Boston-accent the other?!?

Who can out Bawhstan the other?!?

Thirteen Days is, essentially, a two-and-a-half-hour long movie in which a bunch of middle-aged men sit around, smoke cigars, have the occasional shot of Scotch or two, yell, and have discussions with one another about Cuba. That’s basically it. While I’m most positively sure that won’t work or sound at all appealing to younger, more explosion-driven audiences, for someone like me, believe it or not, who values a well-told story with emotional fireworks, as opposed to the actual physical ones, then yeah, it actually works/appeals to me.

Won’t for everybody, but hey, screw everybody!

What director Roger Donaldson does best is that he allows for us to feel suspense and intensity, even while we clearly know what’s to come of this story, how it’s going to end, who is going to live, who is going to perish, and most importantly, what life lessons will be learned when all is said and done. Certain movies like Titanic, or Apollo 13, or a more similar one like JFK, all toy with the perception and idea of reality, what we know of history, and uses it as a springboard to actually get us involved and invested with the story. Somehow, even though we know a good portion of history and had to, sadly, go through all of those years in the backs of classes, wondering who the 15th President was and never remembering, there’s still that feeling that not everything will go exactly as according to plan. Donaldson won’t take any huge risks like re-writing history, but the simple idea that he actually could, makes Thirteen Days all the more exciting.

Even though, yes, it is just a bunch of dudes talking to one another.

And yes, even at two-and-a-half-hours, maybe the movie’s a tad too long. There’s certain facts about the Cuban Missile Crisis that were apparently unearthed for the first time in this movie and because of that, the movie goes on beyond just being a re-enactment. But at the same time, it’s still doing a lot of re-telling, without ever putting its own narrative-spin. In a way, it almost feels like Thirteen Days works as something that would work best on the History channel, as opposed to a full-length, big-budget (although you wouldn’t always know it), feature flick. We never really get an investigative eye into what happened and what we still perceive to be as history, but mostly, just a “Hey guys, this is probably what happened when you were all duck and covering under your desks.”

Then again, maybe Thirteen Days doesn’t need to be anything more than a slightly glamorized re-telling of what may or may have happened. There’s just a certain feeling I can’t help but embrace where I wonder, being in the 21st Century and all, whether or not we should ask more questions about our history, where we come from, and what made us the country that we are today. Granted, maybe these are the types of questions that only I would like to hear answered, or possibly explored, but for some reason, watching a movie paint a nearly God-like portrait of Bobby and John Kennedy, still feels like a missed-opportunity. We should be able to paint a little closer and hold-up the lense to what we see as our nation’s history.

"Marilyn or Jackie tonight?"

“Marilyn or Jackie tonight? Hmmmmmm.”

If we can’t do that, then what’s the point of re-telling stories like this all over again?

Inform the public? Re-live the golden days when time was a lot simpler and somewhat more paranoid? Make a quick buck?

I don’t know, really. This isn’t to say that a movie like Thirteen Days, one that’s well-acted, exciting and believe it or not, fun, without ever trying to showcase a car-crash or actual action-sequence, doesn’t deserve to exist, but hey, push a little harder or further next time. I’m not saying put RFK or JFK on a stake and make them apologize for their ways, but an extra discussion or two about what was the right move, what wasn’t, and what deserves to be talked about to this day.

After all, if schools cease to exist, and all we have to rely on is movie’s for education, then why not dig a bit deeper?

Consensus: Without ever trying to be manipulative, Thirteen Days still works as a sometimes tense, almost exciting re-telling of an infamous time in our nation’s history that maybe, just maybe, there should be more of a discussion about.

7 / 10

Cuba best recognize that this is who they're messing with.

Cuba best recognize that this is who they’re messing with.

Photos Courtesy of: Movpins

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One response to “Thirteen Days (2000)

  1. Three Rows Back April 10, 2016 at 4:40 pm

    Nice work Dan. One of Costner’s very best and a really well told account of the Cuban Missile Crisis in my book.

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