Thirteen Days

Thirteen Days is a docudrama based on actual events of the Cuban Missile Crisis beginning when an American U-2 reconnaissance jet takes photos over Cuba showing missile bases being constructed. It’s October 1962. The Cold War of the 1950’s with Russia has waned, but not ended. The American people are fearful of a possible WW III in light of the discovery of Soviet nuclear missiles aimed at the United States that are a mere 1000 miles away in Cuba. The film covers the events of the next thirteen days. This excellent movie depicts the incredible nerve-racking tension that occurred behind the scenes, concealed from the general public during those 13 days of 1962 — the closest America & the Soviet Union ever came to World War III. It gives the public a much-needed understanding of exactly how it occurred, how it was handled, and most importantly, how unbelievably close humanity came to the very brink of global thermo-nuclear war. When the nuclear missile presence escalates in Cuba, President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) attempts to curb the threat with help from his aides, his generals and his younger brother, Bobby (Stephen Culp), then the U.S. attorney general. After assessing the situation, they quickly realize the Soviets could launch offensive warheads, leaving the fate of the world hanging by a thread. It appears that the Soviets under-estimated the resolve of Kennedy and his determination that the U.S. would not stand for missiles pointed at us from Cuba. The accurate and amazing portrayals of the Kennedy brothers by Greenwood and Culp make this the best movie out there on Kennedy and his time in office. The script is excellent and although some actions are dramatically enhanced to heighten the suspense, much is taken from the actual secret tape recordings made by the White House at the time. One of the most surprising sequences for me was the heated discussions and tension between the diplomats and the military generals. Each had his own objective, but this portrayal suggests the military chiefs were anxious to engage in a war while the executive branch wished to pursue firmness without blatant retaliation. But there’s a fine line between being interpreted as “firm,” as opposed to “weak.” And these decisions had global ramifications. This is a wonderful piece of historical film that is thought-provoking, tense, frightening, and well-performed. Costner, Greenwood, and Culp assume the personas of their characters proficiently, as do the supporting actors. Thirteen Days very effectively captures the tensions and compresses a pivotal historical event into a very impressive movie. This movie could serve as an excellent introduction for those who are not familiar with the event or those whose memories have been blurred by time. The high drama of the world poised at the brink, and the decision making that pulled us back from it, make for a compelling story indeed. The actors convince you that they are the actual players involved in the crisis. This movie is more exciting than anything Tom Clancy could have dreamed up. This movie should be required viewing for all Americans today. It clearly shows a period of our history which in many ways is similar to the situations we find ourselves in today. The cool heads that prevailed then should be an example to all of us today. That crisis is presented in a believable way for those of us who were old enough in 1962 to remember what a time of stress that was for our nation. Frightening times well-communicated in this film. Let it be a remembered lesson to us all. Docudrama 2000 PG-13 145 minutes

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An earlier version of the Cuban Missile Crisis is “The Missles of October” which was made in 1973. I also watched Thirteen Days, the later version made in 2000, but saw that many recommended this earlier version instead, so I rented it. It is more of a production that history buffs or drama enthusiasts would enjoy as it is quite lengthy and the action at times seems slow because it comes from the story itself. The writing is well done and the dialogue and characterization keep you hooked until the end. I was definitely not disappointed, but this is a completely different beast. It is clearly low budget, a lot like a play really, but the compelling performances more than make up for it. This was originally released as an educational film for schools. This is historiography where the other, 13 Days, is ‘Hollywood-ography’. This has fantastic portrayals of the Kennedy’s (accents included), whereas 13 Days is a tighter and more focused film. Which is better? This I found more interesting, the other more exciting. Are you one that wants to know the truth and the details or one who wants a glossy, true-ish and fun portrayal of historical events? For me, it depends on my mood. But! This definitely has the hands-down best acting of the two. What a cast! This reads like a “who’s who” of great character actors of the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s. William Devane gives one of his greatest performances portraying John F. Kennedy, giving us an insight into the strength and leadership of one of the most beloved presidents in U.S. history. Martin Sheen also does a nice job playing Bobby Kennedy. I thought the way they presented this story appeared more detailed and more accurate than the Costner movie, “Thirteen Days“. I liked Devane’s portrayal of Jack Kennedy best. Younger viewers would be well served to understand the historical context of 1962. This is a time-capsule gem! Best movie about Cuban missile crises I’ve seen yet.

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