The Docudrama Thirteen Days Film Studies Essay

In October of 1962, the United States and the Soviet Union became embroiled in a confrontation that could easy hold escalated into atomic war. Many of the inside informations of that confrontation, which is known as the Cuban Missile Crisis, are brightly dramatized by the absorbing documentary Thirteen Days. The film tells the narrative entirely from the point of position of the White House ; the Soviet side of the narrative is wholly omitted. But what I like best about the movie is the manner it shows how a group of extremely intelligent work forces grapple with a complex and monumentally of import job.

Within the first few proceedingss of the movie, we are introduced to Kenny O’Donnell ( Kevin Costner ) , loving hubby and male parent of five immature kids. We shortly learn that O’Donnell is a senior helper to US President John F. Kennedy ( Bruce Greenwood ) and a longtime friend of the President ‘s brother Robert F. Kennedy ( Steven Culp ) . It rapidly becomes evident that while RFK ‘s occupation rubric is Attorney General of the United States, he really functions as the President ‘s right-hand adult male.

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On Tuesday, October 16, 1962, O’Donnell is summoned by the President to look at late taken aerial reconnaissance exposure. The exposure reveal that the Soviets have moved atomic missiles into Cuba that would be capable of killing 80 million Americans, and it is estimated that the missiles can be made operational in 10 to 14 yearss. To cover with this menace, the President creates a particular Executive Committee ( Ex-Comm ) made up of senior authorities functionaries. Although there is considerable sentiment within Ex-Comm to establish air work stoppages against Cuba, the commission recommends a naval encirclement, presumptively in the belief that the milder class of action will decrease the opportunity of atomic war.

The President orders the encirclement, trusting it will signal to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev his purpose to take stronger action subsequently if the Soviets do non take their missiles from Cuba. But in a quiet minute with merely his interior circle of sure intimates present, JFK voices his apprehensiveness that even a little misreckoning could direct things whirling wildly out of control: “ Say one of their ships resists the review and we shoot out its rudder… They shoot down one of our planes in response. So we bomb their anti-aircraft sites in response to that, and they attack Berlin. So we invade Cuba, and they fire their missiles. And we fire ours. ”

One of the interesting facets of O’Donnell ‘s occupation is that he can state and make things that the President can non, and the movie gives a provocative illustration. At one point, O’Donnell calls up Commander Ecker ( portrayed by Christopher Lawford, a nephew of both JFK and RFK ) , a Navy pilot who is about to do a low-level reconnaissance flight over Cuba. O’Donnell tells Ecker, “ Whatever happens up at that place, you were non shot at. ” In restrained linguistic communication, O’Donnell makes Ecker recognize that if the President becomes aware that Ecker ‘s plane was fired on, the President will revenge militarily, and O’Donnell leaves it up to Ecker to reason merely how desperate the effects might be. When Ecker flies his mission, Soviet anti-aircraft units shoot tonss of holes in the wings of his plane, but he still returns safely. Later Ecker is debriefed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and when asked if he was fired on, he lies, “ It was a cakewalk, sir. ”

As Soviet bottoms approach the US war vessels implementing the encirclement, tenseness tallies high. At first it appears that the Soviet ships are merely traveling to seek to run the encirclement, but so they stop and some even turn around. Back in Washington, authorities functionaries see a fleeting euphoric sense of alleviation, and Secretary of State Dean Rusk quips, “ We were eyeball to eyeball, and I think the other chap merely blinked. ”

Keenly cognizant of the importance of universe sentiment, the Kennedy disposal uses a televised United Nations meeting to derive understanding for the American place. In that meeting, US Ambassador to the U.N. Adlai Stevenson asks the Soviet Ambassador, “ Do you, Ambassador Zorin, deny that the USSR has placed and is puting medium- and intermediate-range missiles in sites in Cuba? Yes or no? ” The Soviet Ambassador makes some sprawling statements, but fails to reply Stevenson ‘s inquiry, motivating Stevenson to state, “ I ‘m prepared to wait for my reply until snake pit freezings over! ” The American deputation so presents to the United Nations the photographic grounds of the Soviet missiles in Cuba.

The most dramatic minute in the movie comes when a Soviet oiler header for Cuba refuses to mind calls to halt. Earlier, the President had directed that perfectly no shootings were to be fired except by his order. Yet, Admiral George Anderson orders an American ship to fire flairs over the Soviet oiler. Angrily, Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara orders the fire be stopped instantly, and the Admiral tells him, “ Get out of our manner, Mr. Secretary. The Navy ‘s been running encirclements since the yearss of John Paul Jones. ” McNamara is appalled to recognize that Anderson is believing that the Cuban encirclement is similar to other blockades the Navy has run in the yesteryear, and the Secretary of Defense cries at the Admiral, “ This is n’t a encirclement! This is linguistic communication — a new vocabulary — the likes of which the universe has ne’er seen! This is President Kennedy pass oning with Secretary Khrushchev! ”

Finally, American intelligence studies that the Soviet missiles in Cuba are going operational, and on October 27 an American pilot is killed when his plane is changeable down during a reconnaissance mission. The President orders an air work stoppage against Cuba for Monday, October 29, unless the Soviets agree to take their missiles. With clip running out, Robert F. Kennedy meets with Soviet Ambassador Anatoly Dobrynin in what appears to be the last opportunity for a negotiated colony. As the President ‘s brother, RFK is able to offer a private confidence of an American grant that can non be portion of any formal understanding. On Sunday, October 28, the Soviets signal their credence of the offer by denoting on Radio Moscow that they are leveling their missiles in Cuba and conveying them back to the Soviet Union. Therefore, the thirteen-day Cuban Missile Crisis is over, and atomic war has been avoided.

I exhaustively enjoyed Thirteen Days, but I would be derelict if I failed to advert that the movie is presented as an American common people fable, and none of its characters seem existent. The intervention of the Kennedys is positively respectful, and the generals and admirals are all backward militarists. Even Kenny O’Donnell is depicted as such a all right chap that we ca n’t understand how he could of all time hold earned the moniker “ The Cobra. ” But of class the characters in a common people fable do n’t hold to look existent — they merely have to stand for something the audience wants to believe.

The ocular manner of Thirteen Days is straightforward, but this works good for the sort of narrative the movie Tells. I think Bruce Greenwood is rather good in the hard function of John F. Kennedy, and all the other histrions, including Kevin Costner, are at least equal. I liked the denseness of item in the film, and I found my emotions running really high at times. After all, it ‘s soothing to believe the movie ‘s basic premiss that nice work forces prosecuting in rational idea better the odds of avoiding calamity. Thirteen Days is n’t great filmmaking, but I found the film really entertaining, and I think most other people will, excessively.


This fast traveling thriller reveals how improbably near we all came to World War III back in October 1962 after President John F. Kennedy discovered the Soviet Union had installed atomic missiles inside Cuba.

Thirteen Days, directed by Roger Donaldson, is told from the point of position of presidential adjutant Kenny O’Donnell, who is good played by Kevin Costner. Through his eyes we gain entree to President Kennedy ‘s inner-most circle during the whole crisis.

At first glimpse, the sham Bawsten ( Boston ) speech patterns were a spot deflecting, as they are in any Kennedy flick. Peoples in Hollywood do n’t look to recognize that the Kennedys do n’t hold a existent Boston speech pattern. They invented their ain.

Anyhow, JFK is likely one of the more hard historical characters to portray, given the lingering impact of old movie and Television cartridge holders ( “ Ask non what your state can make for you, ” etc. ) . Bruce Greenwood as President Kennedy is rather outstanding, sagely taking to minimize his Kennedyness while nicely demoing us how cautious and brooding the President really was throughout the crisis. Steven Culp as his younger brother Bobby is besides all right.

The movie reasonably much follows the historical timeline of events, get downing with a high winging U-2 undercover agent jet taking exposures over Cuba bring outing missile bases under building. The President must so make up one’s mind how to react to this major incursion by the Soviets in the Western Hemisphere, so near to the U.S.

The movie ‘s strongest point is that it clearly shows how even the slightest misjudgment by the U.S. or the Soviets during the crisis might hold caused events to gyrate out of control so that no 1 could forestall a atomic holocaust. Amid the overpowering emphasis and weariness, President Kennedy must fight to avoid doing that one error which might be seen as an straight-out act of war by the Soviets.

Meanwhile, the President is under heavy force per unit area from his gung-ho military heads who want to hit first and trade with the effects subsequently. They play by antique military regulations of battle, non recognizing the regulations are altering now from minute to minute.

One of the best scenes in the film is a shout-down between Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara ( Dylan Baker ) and a grandiloquent Navy admiral in which McNamara forbids any unauthorised usage of arms. The admiral responds by touting that the Navy has been carry oning naval encirclements since the yearss of John Paul Jones ( the 1700s ) . McNamara is justifiably incredulous at his perilously outdated outlook.

The first-class book by David Self was meticulously researched and is mostly based on the secret tape recordings made inside the White House by President Kennedy. In a few cases, the duologue is lifted verbatim from the tapes. There is besides the expected dramatic embroidery to do this thing a marketable merchandise.

The biggest spring of religion is the shore uping up of O’Donnell ‘s importance to the President during the missile crisis. O’Donnell, one of the alleged ‘Irish Mafia, ‘ was merely Kennedy ‘s assignments secretary, non a National Security adviser as one might believe from this movie. Although he was a long-time adjutant and trusted political manus, he had no where near the influence that Costner ‘s character has. But this is wholly excusable, sing the necessity of a large function for ace Costner ( besides a co-producer ) or this fantastic historical movie might ne’er hold been made.


In Thirteen Days, we experience the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962 from inside the White House. This true narrative provides higher play and more strength than any fiction. The universe came perilously near to World War 3 and possibly the entire devastation of the planet via atomic missiles, and this film walks us through it from the point of position of the ultimate insider.

Thirteen DaysThat ultimate insider is JFK ‘s “ Particular Aid to the President ” Kenneth P. O’Donnell, played by Kevin Costner. Bruce Greenwood plays John F. Kennedy and Steven Culp plays brother Robert Kennedy. Along with Bobby, O’Donnell is one of JFK ‘s most sure intimates and has a ringside position of the full crisis as we live it through his eyes.

For those who are excessively immature to hold lived through it, or retrieve it, and who flunked U.S. History, the Cuban Missile Crisis took topographic point in October 1962. A U-2 undercover agent plane took images of Russian missile installings being constructed in Cuba. As these missiles could make the U.S. in a affair of proceedingss they were considered foremost strike arms, and the U.S. perfectly could non digest their presence. The events that follow represent what could possibly be called the highest bets game of “ poulet ” of all time played with neither side willing to endorse off and stand down for several yearss.

During this clip we came closer to atomic war than at any point in history. The film portrays Kennedy, his brother and O’Donnell as being the immature new Presidential squad looking for the right solution to the job without blowing up the universe while the Joint Chiefs and the old guard merely wanted to zip into Cuba and blow all of the missile installations up. That is something that JFK felt would ask a response from the Russians that would get down an escalation that would probably stop up in armegeddon. Even with dozenss of now declassified paperss to pull from, it ‘s tough to state how accurate that portraiture is overall. Although reasonably much historically accurate, some dramatic licence was used here and at that place. However, one thing is for certain and that is his handling of this event is what made John F. Kennedy one of the most popular Presidents in history.

The movie is good acted and does a really good occupation of animating the clip period. It starts a spot slow, and early on I thought it was missing in it ‘s ability to truly catch the strength that surrounded the events, but it got much better as the narrative progressed. Costner ‘s public presentation besides worried me early on. His effort at a Boston speech pattern ab initio was like fingernails on a blackboard. I do n’t cognize if his public presentation improved later in the movie or if I merely got used to it. But by the terminal of the movie, it was n’t trouble oneselfing me at all.

We ‘re giving this movie a 4 star evaluation, but I must state this is one of those films that makes me wish we had half stars. There are no auto pursuits, shoot outs or tah tahs like we usually look frontward to, but this is a great narrative, and an of import narrative and a good done movie. And possibly more significantly we did bask it. So allow ‘s merely name it a instead unenthusiastic 4 star evaluation. It ‘s kinda like eating something that ‘s good for you and detecting you like it even if it ‘s non every bit good as a cheeseburger.


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