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Thirteen Days
cast: Kevin Costner, Steven Culp, Bruce Greenwood

director: Roger Donaldson

140 minutes (12) 2000
Hollywood VHS retail
Also available to buy on DVD

RATING: 8/10
reviewed by Antony Mann
In October 1962, in the middle of the Cold War, there was the Cuban missile crisis. Being so close to the USA, Cuba was the perfect place for strategic missiles trained on said superpower democracy, each nuclear warhead capable of blowing a huge hole in things. The Russians thought so anyway. When American spy planes flying over Cuba sussed out what was going on, a crisis ensued - one that lasted, as it happens, for 13 days.
   The critical issue with a film such as this which (in contrast to your run-of-the-mill American submarine flick, for instance) attempts to dramatise history accurately, is whether or not the tension is maintained; whether or not the stakes are raised despite the audience knowing the outcome of the drama. Even in America there couldn't be that many people who didn't know that the world was nearly wiped out by nuclear weapons in the 1960s. But screenwriter David Self has come up with the goods here, ably assisted by director Roger Donaldson who, after duds such as Dante's Peak, Cocktail and the unnecessary remake of The Getaway has finally jumped on board a decent project. In that curious cinematic suspension of reality, the excitement of Thirteen Days builds steadily as, in order to preserve peace, John F. Kennedy (Greenwood) and his brother Bobby (Culp) must walk the knife-edge between the Russians and their own war-mongering generals. Kevin Costner, in a strong performance as presidential adviser Kenneth O'Donnell, completes the triumvirate, and it is through his eyes that the story is told. Oddly, even though you know the world still exists, you can still sit on the edge of your seat through this film and cross your fingers that WWIII doesn't come to pass.
   More than anything, in these times, it's refreshing to see an American film that deals with issues of national and world import, especially in relation to war, with dignity and humility. This is a movie about America as a nation, not the nation, and perhaps for that reason alone, it's worth seeing.