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Thirteen Days (Roger Donaldson) 2000

Wow, Thirteen Days was a bore... Clocking in at an excruciating 2 hours and 25 minutes (and feeling as epic as its title suggests), it's one of the longer movies released this holiday season, and it feels like the longest. Based on the events surrounding the Cuban Missile Crisis, the film seems to be condescending to the audience the whole time.  Motivations are explained time and again. It's really quite ridiculous to have a scene between the Americans where we are told how they expect the Russians to react to a deal, and then see the entire conversation as the deal is pitched, then watch the Russians react exactly as expected. Where's the tension? This would be like having to watch the wisely omitted opening courtroom scene or job interview in Erin Brockovich. The specifics aren't as interesting as the outcome, so why waste our time?

There's no dramatic tension created by the direction or script beyond the inherent drama (which we already know the outcome of). Kevin Costner's faux-Boston accent is absolutely horrible. The rest of the Boston accents are merely distracting. The only actors who gives a better than adequate performance are the guys that play John & Bobby Kennedy and especially Adlai Stevenson. The film's direction is absolutely awful. Roger Donaldson hasn't really ever made a great movie, so this is no surprise. Some of the choices he makes are inexplicable though. There are random segues from black & white to color stock (sometimes in the same scene) that seem to exist only to remind us how visually unimaginative the film is compared to Oliver Stone's work. Every time a new member of the cabinet appears on screen, we get a caption telling us who they are & their title (instead of providing this exposition  via dialogue / actions) It's really a been edited into a big mess. I'm tempted to call it a big TV movie, but TV movies don't last this long, have commercials to break up the tedium, and don't cost ninety million dollars to make. The film really doesn't give much of an inside track as to what happened during the Cuban Missile Crisis beyond what I assume is common knowledge. If you already know about the events during those Thirteen Days, there's little reason to watch the film at all.


September, 2001

Jeremy Heilman