Customer Review

18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "... something immoral about abandoning your own judgement", 3 Oct. 2005
This review is from: Thirteen Days [DVD] [2001] (DVD)
Thirteen Days" is an absolutely wonderful movie that somehow allows the spectator to be a witness of some of the meetings behind closed doors that took place in the White House during the Cuban Missile Crisis, in October 1962.
Among the people that participated in those meetings, the most important ones were probably the president John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), Robert F. Kennedy (Steven Culp), Defense Secretary Robert McNamara (Dylan Baker), presidential aide Kenneth O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), Adlai Stevenson (the US Ambassador to the UN, played by Michael Fairman), Secretary of State Dean Rusk (Henry Strozier), National Security Advisor McGeorge Bundy (Frank Wood) and Ted Sorensen as Special Counsel to the President (Tim Kelleher).
That was a moment in time when nuclear war was a very real possibility, and J.F. Kennedy did all in his power to avoid such an event. The actor that plays him said something that I consider noteworthy: "There is something immoral about abandoning your own judgement". I think that the director (Roger Donaldson) tried to highlight with that phrase the ultimate responsibility of the president regarding the course of action that his administration was going to take. All his advisors could give their opinion, but in the end it was J.F. Kennedy's decision that mattered.
What triggered that dreadful situation, that lasted 13 days?. The URSS secretly sent ballistic missiles to Cuba, missiles capable of destroying many United States' cities, thus threatening national security. The Americans discovered that, and had to reach a decision regarding what to do. The responsibility was immense, because a simple mistake could mean the beginning of a nuclear war.
All throughout the movie we can see that the president of the United States knew that the consequences if the matter got out of hand were going to be catastrophic. But what to do?. Many of his advisors had vastly different opinions, ranging from invading Cuba immediately to waiting a little for a political solution to the problem. It is really interesting to realize how difficult it was for them (and specially the president) to reach a decision, when so much was at stake, and they had incomplete information about URSS' intentions.
Of course, "Thirteen Days" isn't entirely historically accurate, overemphasizing the role of some of the characters, and maybe not paying enough importance to others. All the same, that often happens in movies, and that doesn't mean that they aren't good. If you want a completely accurate recount of the Cuban Missile Crisis, read a history book like "The Kennedy Tapes: Inside the White House During the Cuban Missile Crisis". If you just want to watch a good film that will give you a fairly accurate idea of what happened then, watch this film. My recommendation?: do both things.
On the whole, I think that you are highly likely to enjoy "Thirteen Days". You will be entertained, but at the same time you will have a glimpse of how the process of decision during crisis really works in real life, and how difficult it is to conciliate the views of different agencies. What is more, and if you don't know much about the Cuban Missile Crisis, this film might be perfect as an small introduction to the matter. Truth to be told, I had already studied this crisis at university, but I enjoyed watching Roger Donaldson's take on it :)
Belen Alcat
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