Thirteen Days

The trouble with history is we all know how it ends. The fact that the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was defused pretty much goes without saying, given that we're all still here. But Roger Donaldson's account of the tense two weeks when it looked as though America and the USSR were going to start a global nuclear war is thoroughly gripping....read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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The trouble with history is we all know how it ends. The fact that the Cuban

Missile Crisis of 1962 was defused pretty much goes without saying, given that

we're all still here. But Roger Donaldson's account of the tense two weeks

when it looked as though America and the USSR were going to start a global

nuclear war is thoroughly gripping. It recalls equally such jittery cold war

thrillers as FAIL SAFE and DR. STRANGELOVE (with the obvious difference that

the crisis is averted) and a particularly testosterone-fueled episode of TV's

The West Wing, all clean-cut men in suits barking at each other. The

Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 begins on October 16, when U.S. surveillance

photos detect Russian-built missiles in Cuba, a worrying 90 miles off the

Florida coast. That this is no minor matter becomes quickly apparent, and the

government is on alert in a matter of hours. The daunting list of key players

includes President Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), his brother, Attorney General

Robert Kennedy (Steven Culp), Special Assistant to the President Kenny

O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Dylan Baker), Secretary of State Dean Rusk (Henry Strozier),

Special Assistant for National Security Affairs McGeorge Bundy (Frank Wood)

and Ambassador to the United Nations Adlai Stevenson (Michael Fairman). While

the military brass argue that the Soviets only understand force, Kennedy is

reluctant to start the world on a path that will lead inevitably to nuclear

annihilation, a position secretly perceived by some of his own advisers as

weak. Shots of planes, missiles, warships and ominous nuclear clouds

notwithstanding, the real action unfolds in a series of smoky rooms whose

claustrophobia is suffocating. This is a work of fact-based fiction, not a

documentary; the script no doubt takes liberties with the details. But it

effectively evokes the terror of the time for viewers too young to remember a

near-disaster far scarier than any imaginary apocalypse involving rogue

meteors or hostile extraterrestrials.

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  • Released: 2000
  • Rating: PG-13
  • Review: The trouble with history is we all know how it ends. The fact that the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 was defused pretty much goes without saying, given that we're all still here. But Roger Donaldson's account of the tense two weeks when it looked a… (more)

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