starring Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker and Michael Fairman
written by David Self
directed by Roger Donaldson
In October 1962 when John Kennedy was President of the United States and Nikita Khrushchev was the Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, the world came within about 48-hours of having a nuclear war. This is the famous October Crisis, when the United Statesimplemented a naval blockade of Cubato stop the Soviet Union from continuing to arm that island country with short-and medium-rang nuclear missiles, and to force it to remove missiles that were already installed there.
It is a very dramatic film and I rather enjoyed it, although I do not think it is as good as that other Kevin Costner movie about President Kennedy, JFK, directed by Oliver Stone. In the summer of 1961 the U.S. government, under pressure fro the Pentagon, launched he disastrously inept and doomed Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba - a few hundred American-armed and trained Cuban exiles landed on a Cuban beach with the vain hope of overthrowing the Castro regime. Then a little more than one year later the Cuban missile crisis arouse when U2 spy planes revealed missiles on the island and the Pentagon brass saw its chance for rehabilitation. What I liked about 13 Days was how it shoed the struggle between the proud military generals and admirals thirsty to redeem themselves as warriors in the cause of freedom, democracy, and the American way of life, and the civilian politicians and inner circle of the President vying to avoid a nuclear holocaust. The Pentagon wanted a war to assuage the humiliation of the Bay of Pigs, and they saw to October Crisis as their chance.
Along the way I think the film is an excellent history lessons for people - especially young people - who may know nothing about it. The cast of characters is like a history lesson review of the Kennedy administration and American politics in the 1960s: President John Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), his wife Jacqueline, Attorney General Robert Kennedy (Steven Culp), Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara (Dylan Baker), Secretary of State Dean Rusk, Director of the C.I.A. John McCone, U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson (Michael Fairman), Press Secretary to the President Pierre Salinger, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Maxwell Taylor (Bill Smitrovich), Chief of Naval Operations Admiral George Anderson (Madison Mason), Air Force Chief of Staff General; Curtis LeMay, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite, and more. These are all, or were real people; the real names of real people in real positions. Many of the names and job titles are familiar to me, but many others are not.
One interesting thing - I think it is a mistake - is the presence, or lack thereof, of voice President Lyndon Johnson. I kept wondering thought the movie where Lyndon Johnson was. Only one mention is made of him in the movie when the President jokes to an aide about shooting deer from the back of a convertible on Johnson’s Texas ranch. Lyndon Johnson is in the story, played by actor Walter Adrian. But I had to watch it a second time in order to see him because he comes and goes very quickly in a cabinet meeting. So much is devoted to the behind-the-scenes goings on between President Kennedy and his special political aid Kenny O’Donnell (Kevin Costner) that the Vice President is totally ignored. I think that is a mistake. Still, it is good entertainment and good history.