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Director: Roger Donaldson

Producers: Armyan Bernstein, Peter O. Almond, and Kevin Costner

Written by: David Self; from the book, The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis, by Ernest R. May

Cast: Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker

Rating: out of 5

THIRTEEN DAYS is a gripping historical movie that takes us inside the Kennedy Administration during the Cuban Missile Crisis as the U.S. and the U.S.S.R. played a harrowing game of political chicken over the placement of offensive Soviet weapons in Cuba. Seen through the eyes of Kenny O'Donnell (Costner), Special Aide to President Kennedy (Greenwood), this movie works on several levels.

On the surface we are shown the historical events and the political maneuvering which brought us all to the brink of nuclear war. We are also witnesses to the internal battles that raged within the U.S. government, as the White House, the Pentagon, and the CIA debated the best course of action in dealing with the Soviets. As shown in the movie, these battles become almost a struggle between generations, as the young JFK, with brother Bobby (Culp) at his side, holds his ground against the older generals and advisors who seem all too eager to take the offensive and begin the end of the world. (This may be because Greenwood looks very young in contrast with everyone else.)

On a more poignant level, we see Costner's character spending what may be the last days of his life caught up in these events, unable to be with his wife and family. This works to remind us of what is at stake, as a handful of powerful men decide the fate of innocent people everywhere.

Actor Stephen Culp shines as Bobby Kennedy among a strong supporting cast. Fortunately for us, the character of Kenny O'Donnell is really a supporting role, and Costner's Boston accent is kept at a minimum.

Director Roger Donaldson, who worked with Costner before in NO WAY OUT, does an admirable job here, employing a variety of interesting techniques. One that I really liked took me a bit to figure out. I kept getting this feeling of déjà vu until I realized that scenes would suddenly click into place to become one of those memorable black-and-white pictures from Life magazine about the Kennedy White House. One technique used that didn't work was having some scenes transition from color into black-and-white. I couldn't figure out why those scenes were chosen since they were usually non-critical moments in the story and not even the Life magazine shots.

Overall, this movie does a good job of capturing the events and the emotions of this critical time in recent history. I enjoyed THIRTEEN DAYS, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes historical and/or political movies. On a side note, I read that this will be the first movie with the much-anticipated trailer for LORD OF THE RINGS.

- Sandhya Shardanand

hybridCinema Ratings Guide:

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