Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Thirteen Days (2000)

A frightening Cold War experience makes for a thrilling movie in Roger Donaldson's Thirteen Days (Infinifilm Edition).

This 2000 drama about the Cuban Missile Crisis gets straight to chilling business. An American spy plane captures footage of Russian ballistic missiles being installed in Cuba. If fired, they could reach as far north as Washington. Eighty million Americans could be killed. It's estimated there's 10 to 14 days before they become operational.

President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) needs to act fast. The first-term Democrat is walking a tightrope. The American military wants to pounce with options of invading Cuba or launching air strikes against the Communist island nation. "The big red dog is digging in our backyard," warns Gen. Curtis LeMay (Kevin Conway). Military brass like him see Kennedy as weak against the Russians.

Kennedy knows any suggestion of military action could force the Soviet Union to launch its nuclear missiles. The world would be destroyed.

A naval blockade of Cuba is suggested. But what if Russian ships disobey? Should that happen, will American ships open fire - against the orders of the American president?

Kennedy is livid when other American actions he doesn't have control over - the testing of a nuclear weapon, a spy plane venturing into Soviet air space - suggest to Russia that the United States if prepared to flex its considerable military muscle. "We can't communicate with the Pentagon," laments Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), special advisor to the president.

Thirteen Days includes archival footage of CBS news anchor Walter Cronkite detailing developments during the crisis. Donaldson switches to black and white scenes, a move that's distracting.

This critique is a minor caveat. Thirteen Days crackles with tension as Kennedy and his administration spend long hours trying to avert a nuclear war. Steven Culp does fine work as attorney general, and Kennedy's brother, Robert.

Thirteen Days (Infinifilm Edition) is one of the best latter day thrillers this film fan has watched. See this movie.

RATING: 9/10

FUN FACTS: Internet Movie Database reports Donaldson is now involved in pre-production with a third version of Erich Marie Remarque's All Quiet on the Western Front. Will this version become the First World War equivalent of Saving Private Ryan for contemporary audiences? The 1930 film version won Oscars for best picture and director. A TV movie, with Richard Thomas and Ernest Borgnine, followed in 1979.

Steven Culp played John F. Kennedy in an episode of television's Perception in 2012.

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