Thirteen Days Drama.
- Starring: Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker, Tim Kelleher
- Directer: Roger Donaldson
- Producer: Armyan Bernstein , Kevin Costner , Kevin O'Donnell and Peter O Almond
- Writter: David Self
In Thirteen Days, the power and peril of the American presidency is dramatically explored by director Roger Donaldson, who captures the urgency, suspense and paralysing chaos of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. The alarming escalation of events during those fateful days brought to the fore such public figures as Robert McNamara, Adlai Stevenson, Theodore Sorenson, Andrei Gromyko, Anatoly Dobrynin, McGeorge Bundy, Dean Acheson, Dean Rusk, and General Curtis LeMay. In addition many others -- politicians, diplomats and soldiers -- were on the front line of the showdown. In Thirteen Days, we see all of these people, -- and, above all -- President John F. Kennedy and his brother Bobby, through the eyes of a trusted presidential aide and confidante, Kenneth P. O'Donnell (Kevin Costner). O'Donnell, who served as Special Assistant to the President, was a key White House insider with a Birdseye view of the crisis. His office was next door to the President's Oval Office, and he was a major behind the scenes figure in the Kennedy White House. In the film, O'Donnell serves as a conduit to this gripping dramatization of one of the most dangerous moments in modern history.
It doesn't happen very often: A Hollywood film with an A-list star that is risky, edgy, provocative and intelligent. Surrounding a predominant array of cinematic fluff, New Zealand director Roger Donaldson's Thirteen Days is one of the very few must see films of the year. On the one hand, it can be argued that dealing, cinematically, with the Cuban missile crisis that tested the authority of the Kennedy brothers, is indeed risky business. After all, today's generation of movie goers has an ambivalent attitude to American politics - past or present. What this movie might do, is challenge audiences, especially Americans, to re-evaluate a past fraught with danger. The early sixties was a strange time in American society, one of naïveté and innocence in that pre-Vietnam epoch, a land ruled by the mystique of Kennedy's Camelot. But for almost two weeks in the October of '62, America was confronted by the real possibility of its own devastation, and Kennedy's political virginity was lost. What emerges in Donaldson's gripping drama, is that the US was governed by the politicians but ruled by the military, and American militarism was at the core of this crisis. There is a battle of wills between Jack and Robert Kennedy and the upper echelons of the armed forces, and this is the centre of the drama.
Thirteen Days is not simply another political thriller, it is a study of power and inner conflicts, with the Cuban crisis as wonderful dramatic fodder for these rich characters to play off one another. Though seen through the eyes of Kenneth P. O'Donnell, chief political aide to JFK, Thirteen Days is a far more revealing look at the two Kennedy brothers, their close, dependant relationship and their own growth and maturity as they are forced to confront the real danger of nuclear war. As JFK and Bobby Kennedy respectively, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp give commanding performances, capturing their characters' strengths, flaws and deep humanity, to sublime perfection. They are not impersonators, but magnificently explore who they were and what they must have gone through. Costner finally drifts away from movie icon to actor and delivers a powerful performance.
Featuring a literate and at times eloquent script by David Self and intelligent, taut direction by Donaldson, Thirteen Days moves rapidly throughout its 135 minute running time. Here is a meaty adult drama for audiences who want their movies to be satisfying and intellectual, yet at the same time gripping and enthralling as this one is. It deserves the widest possible audience.
- Paul Fischer