Saturday, 30 January 2010


Culp and Greenwood

Roger Donaldson's THIRTEEN DAYS is a totally engrossing account of the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962. Although, thank God, we all - at least those of us who were around at the time - lived to know the outcome, the film loses none of its suspense showing the closest we ever came to atomic conflict. Kevin Costner produces and takes the roll of John F.Kennedy's closest aide but in terms of acting the great plus of the movie are the performances of, respectively, Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp as John and Robert Kennedy. Culp strikes just the right note as Bobby while Greenwood superbly portrays Jack Kennedy's quiet strength and humanity - especially in scenes with his military men who seem all to eager to plunge the world into a nuclear war. Kennedy, fifty years later, is rightly remembered as a great President (while only twelve months after leaving office, George W.Bush is judged by most of the world as a buffoon). There truly were giants in those days. On a lesser note there are striking similarities with IN THE LOOP (the phrase is actually used in the film) but, of course, without the laughs. Rating ***


Cerpts said...

Oh dear dear dear. Have you never seen the 70'S TV movie "THE MISSILES OF OCTOBER"? THIRTEEN DAYS is but a pale imitation. An OK film, certainly, but only a patch on the earlier film. I also found Kevin Costner's rather marginal character was (necessarily) pumped up to appear much more integral than he actually was in real life (but I guess if you have a major motion picture star in a minor role you've gotten make it BIG). However, knowing his character's actual participation, I did find it a little silly that Costner was portrayed as practically as important as the Kennedys during the Cuban Missile Crisis when in actuality his character was just one of dozens standing off to the side. I will agree that the actors playing Jack and Bobby were pretty good but also not in the same league as William Devane and Martin Sheen in the earlier TV movie. Devane's JFK comes across as a deeper portrayal and a lot more human; the weight of his responsibility particularly palpable. MISSILES is also a lot less bombastically "Hollywoody" than THIRTEEN DAYS; it instead allows the truly world-shaking and suspenseful events to speak for themselves and keeps you on the edge of your seat. I also should mention that Howard DaSilva as Kruschev is also superb. THIRTEEN DAYS (understandably perhaps for a modern Hollywood movie) plays a little fast and loose with the facts occasionally while MISSILES' teleplay is based on eyewitness accounts, memoirs and interviews with the actual participants. One certainly believes that Weaverman needs to see THE MISSILES OF OCTOBER...and one also believes that the likelihood of that happening has now increased. A lot.

Weaverman said...

Sadly, I've never seen MISSILES OF OCTOBER but it's on my prayer list so I expect it will turn up. Agree about Costner who with only two exceptions I have never had much difficulty in ignoring - as I did here. Like all reconstructions of history unless one is familiar with the actual events one tends to accept what one sees...a good case in point is John Wayne's THE ALAMO which is highly entertaining but historical tosh compared with the later version. I subscribe to a school of thought that totally rejects the proclaimer "based on a true story" and believe that once you put actors into a film and invent a line of dialogue you are making a fictional drama whether it be THIRTEEN DAYS or THE WIZARD OF OZ.

Cerpts said...

I have a strong suspicion it will turn up soon.

I actually agree with you about "historical" films or those "based on a true story". As far as I'm concerned, even a documentary is fiction because it's a film. I didn't mean to come across TOO concerned about historical accuracy but rather to convey how much I think MISSILES is a superior film to THIRTEEN DAYS. And that the actual historical events are indeed so compelling, tense and dramatic that THIRTEEN DAYS actually blunted the impact for me -- as compared to watching MISSILES. Of course, MISSILES was a made-for-TV movie with a very limited budget so it takes place entirely on interior sets -- some of them almost "OUR TOWN"-like in there sparseness (I'm thinking particularly of the scenes deep in the Kremlin -- the White House sets are in fact rather satisfactory). The brevity of the script and the acting is what carries the film through. And on top of ALL this, MISSILES even has a supporting role for monster-hunter Kenneth Tobey!!!! HOw can you beat THAT!?!