Thirteen Days

Thirteen Days, starring Kevin Costner, takes on another hefty topic (Oscar loves those): the 1962 Cuban missile crisis. OK, it sounds like a TV movie. Worse, Bruce Greenwood as President John F. Kennedy and Steven Culp as his brother Robert Kennedy, the attorney general, speak with phony Boston accents. So does Costner in the role of Kenny O'Donnell, Bobby's classmate at Harvard and now the special assistant to the president. Know what? As soon as U-2 spy-plane photos reveal the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba, you forget the accents, and the film takes off. It's up to the Kennedys and O'Donnell to save the world. Some historians are spitting bile at screenwriter David Self, claiming that O'Donnell was nowhere near the major player the movie makes him.

Maybe so. But Costner doesn't hog the show, the Kennedy bonding still fascinates, and director Roger Donaldson makes a lively business of watching politicos, diplomats and military brass go at each other in verbal combat. You don't see too many Y2K action films that focus on the spectacle of men thinking.

From The Archives Issue 362: February 4, 1982
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