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Movie Review

Thirteen Days

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for brief strong language

Reviewed by: Debbie James
CONTRIBUTOR

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Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Teen to Adult
Genre:
Drama
Length:
2 hr. 25 min.
Year of Release:
2000
USA Release:
_____
Steven Culp, Bruce Greenwood, and Kevin Costner in “Thirteen Days”
Relevant Issues
Cuban military buildup in “Thirteen Days”

War in the Bible

What is the Biblical perspective on war? Answer

Featuring: Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker, Tim Kelleher
Director: Roger Donaldson
Producer: Armyan Bernstein, Kevin Costner, Kevin O’Donnell, Peter O Almond
Distributor: New Line Cinema

During a routine photographic mission over Cuba, the U.S. discovered that the Soviet Union was assembling a strike force there of over forty nuclear missiles. What ensues is an enormous struggle regarding what to do about this discovery. All were agreed that these missiles could not remain there, but were divided down the middle over how to proceed. The old war dogs wanted to blast the missiles into oblivion before they were armed and ready, and the cooler heads wanted to achieve the removal without starting World War III.

“Thirteen Days” (how long the Cuban Missile Crisis of October, 1962, lasted) centers on how President John F. Kennedy resolved this tense situation. The movie’s tagline, “You’ll never believe how close we came,” hits the nail right on the head.

Long-time friend and presidential advisor, Kenny O’Donnell (Kevin Costner), and Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (Dylan Baker), aid President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) and Attorney General Robert Kennedy (Steven Culp) in coming up with the best plan so that nuclear war is averted. They face intense opposition from The Joint Chiefs of Staff and Air Force Gen. Curtis LeMay, the top brass who felt that if we didn’t act immediately, most of the U.S. would certainly be annihilated by the Russians. As well as that opinion, these guys also feared that the Kennedys would ruin this country by their weakness, and didn’t belong in power. Keep in mind, this was the OTHER close election in our nation’s history, and tension abounded.

The main objectionable aspect of this movie was the language. Although it was spoken while under great duress, it still exists and some will find it bothersome. Present are: 1 “f” word, 31 misuses of “God,” “Jesus,” or “Christ,” and 39 other common swear words. Other material that might be offensive consists of: the obvious war theme (one person is killed, some shooting at aircraft or ships, and scenes of nuclear missiles and explosions); some smoking and/or drinking during the negotiation sessions; and lying (by both the Russians and U.S.)

This movie is highly recommended. It’s not merely entertaining, it’s informative. Granted there’s probably a fair dose of liberty taken in the film, but the event portrayed did happen, and for those of us too young to remember, it’s very intriguing. Even if you’re familiar with the events surrounding the crisis, you’re sure to relate to the agony these men faced as the situation unfolded.

I am glad that cooler heads prevailed and nuclear war was strategically averted. The old familiar adage, “Err on the side of caution,” is a good policy to go by.

* Side note: Kenny O’Donnell’s son Kevin, was one of the co-producers of this film.


Viewer Comments
I need to disagree with one of the previous reviewers! First, though, the movie is “tight” (as the youth group might say!), meaning well-acted and believably portrayed. There were (mostly blasphemous) curses used, but it would have been unbelievable that men under severe pressure did not do that. The tension held throughout—even if you knew what happened, the story was grippingly told… but what I object to is this: a young history student (see above) objects to the Military men being portrayed in favour of war. There were “hawks” (in favour of war, and who wanted to defeat communism by military force) and “doves” (who sought a peaceful solution). Both sides were there, though it was difficult for outsiders to say who was what. Politically, that is still true today—there are still politicians who are both positive and negative. If there is a message, it is be careful about who you pick as leaders—for if you choose poorly, terrible consequences lurk. Of course, it also reflects Costner’s fascination (obsession) with JFK. Is he telling us that this is the real reason for the assassination? My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4½]
—Kevin Jones, age 41
…yes this is a good movie and actors did an excellent job. however, [it] is a good piece of fiction. Yes, fiction. I am a college student and have done intense research on the Cuban Missle Crisis for a paper for one of my classes. I spend three months going through everything that I could find on the subject. I regret to say that a large part of the movie was made up in Hollywood. One of the most prominent mistakes in the movie is the bad guy look at the Military leaders in the Pentagon at the time. Who in real life tried VERY VERY hard to avoid war. But in this movie are portrayed as war-mongers who can’t wait to start WW III. It was in fact Bobbie Kennedy who wanted to use the invasion choice and was against the blockade decision at the start of the conflict. Yes, go see this movie, but be careful when seeing the movie and [discerning between] history and Hollywood! My Ratings: [Average / 2]
—Chris Gruber, age 22, non-Christian
“Thirteen Days” is an excellent movie. The acting and music are the best of all, and even though most people know the ending already, they manage to pull off the suspense. The opening montage of nuclear missiles and explosions is cool. The movie also portrays Christianity favorably. Kenny O’Donnell is a churchgoer and prayer is shown as a good thing (“pray for peace”). The importance of family is also stressed. All in all, “Thirteen Days” is an excellent film worthy of seeing. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Matt Quinn, age 16
“Thirteen Days” is not a glitzy movie by any stretch of the Hollywood mind. Nor is it a high tech work of art. But, it most definitely was a masterful job of screen writing. The scriptwriter took what would be a normally uninteresting story about international politics and made it into an edge of your movie seat story. Except for the language, this was a squeaky clean film. I highly recommend seeing this on the big screen. Don’t wait for it to come out on video. … The only negative, perhaps even sad note about the movie was watching unbelievers in high political offices trying to solve international, life and death matters without the Lord. My Ratings: [Average / 5]
—Bob Christian, age 58
Very well written and acted movie based on a historical event. A must see for all you history buffs!!! Best movie Kevin Costner made in quite some time. My Ratings: [Good / 4½]
—John T, age 35
…This film does a great job of giving the audience an idea about the power struggles and disagreements that arose out of that period of history. One of the military advisors confidently tells an incredulous Kennedy that the Russians will do nothing when the United States fires missiles at them. When the President points out that people usually fire back when fired upon, the military advisor later grumbles behind his back that the Kennedys will “ruin the country”. The intensity of that crisis is well-captured, but audiences should keep in mind that historical stories have many sides, and this is only one man’s view on the events. In the case of people who weren’t born then or as in my case, too young to remember, this should prompt further reading about the subject. There is virtually no violence in this film, with the exception of a few spy planes being shot at, and one being shot down, resulting in a pilot’s death. There is a lot of profane language, including numerous uses of the Lord’s name in vain. This is a sobering look at international tensions, and it might make you wonder how government leaders of today would react in such a situation. My Ratings: [Average / 4]
—Hillari Hunter, age 39
“Thirteen Days” is a very powerful film about the Cuban Missile Crisis. I’ve never seen Kevin Costner in a better film. He was just great. In fact, the three leads were all absolutely brilliant; especially Steven Culp as Robert Kennedy. It was very dramatic and director Robert Donaldson used a remarkable effect throughout. I’m not going to give it away, but it was great. There was a little bit more than “brief strong langauge.” I think it could’ve been rated R for the language. It would be a stretch, yes, but it could’ve been. Also, one must realize the tenseness of the situation. More than anything else, the movie showed just how close we came to being at war. And while there are many many scandals surrounding JFK’s “extra curricular activities” while President, he should certainly be commended for what he did to rectify this situation. “Thirteen Days” was a very, very good film. My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Jason Eaken, age 17
Movie Critics
…depicts the Cuban Missile Crisis without leaning too much on Hollywood drama…
—Dr. Ted Baehr, Movieguide
…This is an outstanding movie, with much for families to talk about…
—Moviemom