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Thirteen Days

Starring: Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood
Director: Roger Donaldson
Genre: Drama
Year: 2000
Rating: 3 / 5

Thirteen Days is an in-depth study of one of the most tension-filled periods of the last half century. For two weeks in the fall of 1962, a time now referred to as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the United States stood at the brink of war. With Russian nuclear weapons being smuggled into Cuba, conflict seemed eminent. With military and political advisors whispering in his ear at all times, President John F. Kennedy was forced to decide the course of a nation. This sequence of events was truly momentous, and the retelling captures this edge-of-the-seat drama superbly. Alas, I kept wondering what this film might have been had its main character, played by Kevin Costner, been written out entirely.

Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), special assistant to the President, is in the midst of a typical day at the White House when he is greeted with potentially deadly news: there are nuclear warheads in Cuba. United States spy planes have returned from a routine mission with pictures of Russian soldiers unloading missiles, creating a serious security risk for the country. This leaves President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) with a few unenviable options: attempt to apply political pressure on the Russians, launch air strikes against Cuba, or invade his island neighbors. From his brother, Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp), through the uppermost echelons of the military, everyone has an opinion on the correct course of action. But will any course prevent all-out war?

The Cuban Missile Crisis presents a positively compelling cinematic opportunity, and director Roger Donaldson does an excellent job of bringing this to the screen. Through Bruce Greenwood, he conveys the elder Kennedy's conflicting options in this case, highlighting the fact that there might not be a right answer. With war seemingly closing in from all sides, Kennedy must find a way to keep his political enemies at bay while keeping his country from a third world war. We are rarely shown any insight into the Russian psyche during this time, only increasing the already palpable tension of the situation. A concerned nation is left with a faceless enemy, one whose intentions are unclear and whose plans are unknown.

Reading this brief synopsis of the film, one might wonder why Kevin Costner's Kenny O'Donnell is even in this film. If this thought has crossed your mind, rest easy - you are not the only one. O'Donnell's role has been the cause of much debate around the film, as the man's actual role within the administration is much less significant than it is portrayed in the film. And, with Costner's nauseating New England accent, the character adds nothing to the film. Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp are the true stars of the film, lending the dramatic weight that propels the story forward. As it is, any time momentum is built, Costner's O'Donnell grinds it to a screeching halt. This makes Thirteen Days an overly long, ordinary film when it could have been something truly special.

Cast:

Kevin Costner..........Ken Donaldson
Bruce Greenwood..........John F. Kennedy
Steven Culp..........Robert F. Kennedy

Certification: Rated PG-13 for language.
Running Time: 145 minutes.

Additional Info: Internet Movie Database
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[critics]