Thirteen Days (2000)

THIRTEEN DAYS, last year's late-year Kevin Costner Oscar bait, opens 
with a lovely montage of missile launches and mushroom clouds-- the 
rocket's red glare that so scared our parents in the early Sixties, 
the same era that this steady, sure-footed, and largely star-less 
Cuban Missile Crisis drama is set.  Playing a special assistant to 
and longtime personal friend of President Kennedy, Costner first ap-
pears at home, barking over breakfast at his kids, and speaking with 
a New England accent so jarring and, well, comical, that he sounds 
like he's trying to talk like a cartoon character!  (Or, gasp!, Adam 
Sandler, who I *swear* he sounds like in one scene!)  While he heads 
to work, a series of spy-plane shots are being examined and, lo and 
behold, those teeny, tiny, oval-edged, long objects can mean only 
one thing:  Rooskies right around the corner in Castroland.  (Said 
missile's squinty detection is courtesy of what looks like a micro-
scope, *itself* a dramatic feat in this age of ultra-resolution sat-
ellite imagery!)

Within ten minutes of the movie's start, the doo doo has hit the 
Oval Office man, resulting in meeting after meeting of grim-faced 
white guys (most in dark suits) and, later, a few pissing contests 
between the in-fighting major players.  (The gist:  JFK keeps push-
ing for a *political* solution, instead of the advice offered by his 
military advisors, which basically consists of "bomb the f*ckers."
And with Costner's character shadowing the Prez and alternating be-
tween being supportive and playing devil's advocate.)

As all this methodically, dramatically unfolds-- and just imagine 
how much *more* exciting it would be if we didn't already know the 
ending!-- director Roger Donaldson (DANTE'S PEAK) intercuts footage 
of US troop deployments and Cuban missile-base construction and jets 
flying over tree-tops and a TV clip of Walter Cronkite.  Plus the 
expected (if minimal) amount of newsreel footage, some black-and-
white photography here and there (presumably for arty effect), and 
one very serious-sounding, snare drum-accompanied score.  Gripping 
from the get-go, actually, with added appeal for history, military, 
and political-science buffs.  Duh.  Fun, white-bread period detail, 
too!  Love those bee-hives, baby!

Get past the accent and the Kev-meister's fine.  He's also the sole 
"star" in the film.  No-names fill the remaining roles, with Bruce 
Greenwood and Steven Culp particularly strong as Jack and Bobby Ken-
nedy, respectively.  There's also a big ol' mess of familiar charac-
ter actors around, for the many smaller- and bit-sized parts.  (Love 
that bug-eyed, beetle-browsed, bespectacled SAC commander, whoever 
he is!)  Overall, kinda stagy, kinda talky, and the exact *opposite* 
of showy.  In short, a thinking person's movie.  Not to mention a 
couple comfortable hours to recall your favorite Cold War memory.  
Mine?  Learning about fallout-shelter supplies and Geiger-counter 
use as a teen member of the Civil Air Patrol.  There's even a drink-
ing game that can be played while watching!  The rules:  take a shot
every time (a.) someone says "Mr. President," (b.) footage of the 
White House is shown, or (c.) yet another character curses "those 
Kennedy's!"  Oh, and I want a red Bat-phone in *my* kitchen, too!  
(Rated "PG-13"/144 min.)

Grade: B

Copyright 2000 by Michael J. Legeros
Movie Hell is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros

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Copyright 2001 by Michael J. Legeros -Movie Hell™ is a trademark of Michael J. Legeros