Thirteen Days

It is pretty sad when most print advertisements for Thirteen Days also state that this film is the only place people can see the new trailer for The Lord of the Rings. The trailer is nice, and the films are highly anticipated, but doing this is unnecessary. Executives probably did this to attract younger males to the film. After all, this is just a history film, right? The good thing is that although the events depicted have a definite conclusion that everybody knows going into the film, Thirteen Days is still a taut, engaging film. Good reviews and word-of-mouth should generate decent returns, both from people alive when the events occurred, and younger people who forgot the events in their history class. It is also nice to see Kevin Costner back in better form. He is not playing in a melodramatic romance, and he is not in some overblown heroic epic. He is still the star here, but maybe because his character is not the star and is part of a more balanced cast, that he does not seem as bad as he can sometimes get. Costner does mangle the accent (again).

Thirteen Days chronicles the Cuban Missile Crisis through the eyes of Special Advisor to the President Kenny O'Donnell (Costner, For Love of the Game, 3,000 Miles to Graceland). For a short span in October 1962, the United States came very close to nuclear war with Russia over the placement of missiles in Cuba. Screenwriter David Self (The Haunting, The Bourne Identity) effectively takes one dramatic sequence after another and puts them together into the film. O'Donnell, President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood, Rules of Engagement, Here on Earth) and Attorney General Robert Kennedy (Steven Culp, Nurse Betty, Fearless) for a sort of triumvirate; a close circle of friends that trust each other and band together when things become especially stressful.

The Joints Chiefs of Staff are pressuring Kennedy to strike against Cuba. Kennedy does not want to because of the snowball effect with Russia an attack would generate. Director Roger Donaldson (Dante's Peak, Species) weaves in calmer scenes with O'Donnell's family with tense meetings. This effectively humanizes O'Donnell and the others, and shows the effect the intense level of stress has on everybody. Looking at the Cuban Missile Crisis through a different set of eyes is also refreshing. Donaldson posits a possible explanation of some of the behind-the-door dealings with Kennedy and his administration. It is a fairly plausible retelling of events, with O'Donnell's role most likely a little larger. Thirteen Days also goes beyond the White House and shows other, related events, putting O'Donnell and the Kennedy's decisions in a larger context and more fully revealing the bigger picture. Good political dramas are hard to come by these days (The Contender and Deterrence being some other recent examples), and Thirteen Days is one of the better recent ones.

Haro Rates It: Pretty Good.
2 hours, 26 minutes, Rated PG-13 for brief strong language.

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