thirteen days(2001)
director: roger donaldson
kevin costner, bruce greenwood, 

. The Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was the closest the Cold War ever got to nuclear war, and while it’s an inherently tense, dramatic story, the only problem is that the ending is too obvious. After all, we’re all still here.

Roger Donaldson’s Thirteen Days is a re-creation of the events surrounding the discovery of Soviet missiles in Cuba, based largely on White House transcripts. Thanks to the latest film technology, familiar archival footage is seamlessly incorporated into the movie, and the eerie sensation of dipping back and forth into the past is enhanced by constant, slow shifts from black and white to colour, through skilfully shot monochrome scenes. 

The film is briliantly cast, as an array of character actors play John F. Kennedy’s cabinet and advisors with remarkable physical likeness. Kevin Costner plays Kenny O’Donnell, Kennedy’s real-life chief of staff, one of those men who knows where all the bodies are buried. Costner’s performance is appropriately pitched, going from bullying to seething as he tries to control the rapidly deteriorating situation. The only jarring note is the Kennedyesque Boston accent Costner affects which, for most of the early scenes, eerily brings to mind Mayor Quimby on The Simpsons.

A film like Thirteen Days will find a receptive audience among political junkies -- the greater public might not be able to sit through almost three hours of cabinet meetings and shouting matches between men in dark suits. It’s hardly a bipartisan take on history, though. Since the real villains of the movie are the trigger-happy generals on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the film mainly serves to buff JFK’s martyred, saintly mythology with another coat of gloss.