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Still shot from the movie: Thirteen Days.

Thirteen Days

In Thirteen Days the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis is seen through the eyes of Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner), the right hand man to American President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood).

Overall Grade: B+
Violence: B-
Sexual Content: A
Language: D+
Drugs/Alcohol: B-
Release Date: 12 Jan 2001
Run Time: 145
MPAA Rating: PG-13


In-Depth Review

As I was toddling around in my baby walker, the rest of the world was teetering on the brink of its very existence. Obviously I have no direct recollections of those days in the fall of 1962, although I have since become aptly aware of "just how close we came," as the tagline of this movie says.

Thirteen Days - Official site Chock full of dialogue, Thirteen Days still keeps an unrelenting grip on your attention by telling the story of the Cuban Missile Crisis through the eyes of Kenny O'Donnell (Kevin Costner). Presidential aide and right hand man to John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood), he observed the innermost moments of the decision making process the between the president and his brother, Attorney General Robert Kennedy (Stephen Culp).

Thirteen Days - Official site With reconnaissance pictures clearly showing the presence of medium range missiles being installed in Cuba, President Kennedy has few choices. The most obvious is to go in with force and attack the island--a full invasion and the favored option of Kennedy's military aides. But certainly this decision would ignite retaliation from Cuba's ally (the USSR) with global nuclear war the very likely result. Fortunately Kennedy sees another option that involves diplomacy, a firm resolve, and the most precious commodity of all--time.

Thirteen Days - Official site Even though we know how the story ends, watching the events unfold that led Kennedy to enact a blockade on all USSR ships bound for Cuba, was a riveting emotional experience. The inclusion of many profanities and terms of Deity are the movie's only shortcoming. While it is probable a few coarse words were uttered in those back rooms, most of the "private" dialogue in this movie is dramatized, and could have been scripted to allow this movie to find its way into more homes and schools.

Political historians note that Thirteen Days does use artistic license, especially in the role of Kenny O’Donnell. However, everyone agrees the movie is still very effective at providing a sense of just how serious this situation was.

Content Details: Beyond the Movie Ratings...

Overall: B+
Aside from the profanity, this movie clearly illustrates to future generations the dangers of conflict and nuclear war. Religion is positively depicted. It also illustrates how poor communications can lead to disastrous results.

Violence: B-
Besides the tension of the crisis including heated moments in meetings and the theme of war, we see one plane get shot with no injuries, while another plane is hit by a missile resulting in the death of the pilot.

Sexual Content: A
Married relationships are shown between loving and caring spouses.

Language: D+
At least 1 extreme profanity (sexual expletive), 18 moderate profanities, 22 mild profanities, and 19 terms of Deity used as expletives or profanities.

Alcohol / Drug Use: B-
Typical for this era, many people smoke cigarettes. Social drinking, and drinking during a couple of very tense moments.

Discussion Ideas: Talk About the Movie...

Learn more about the Cuban Missile Crisis.

Video alternatives

A fictional view of an impending nuclear incident is available in the political thriller Hunt for Red October . The assassination of J.F. Kennedy, which occurred about one year later (Nov 22, 1963), is dramatized in the movie Parkland.

Home Video Notes

Home Video Notes: Thirteen Days

Release Date: 12 November 2013

Thirteen Days re-releases to home video (Blu-ray) in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death. The disc includes the following extras:

- Historical Figures Commentary, composed of archival audio featuring John F. Kennedy, Robert McNamara and Kenneth P. O’Donnell, and interviews with Pierre Salinger, Sergei Khrushchev and many others

- Roots of the Cuban Missile Crisis Documentary, comprised of film footage from the era with interviews covering U.S./Soviet relations from post-WWII Europe through the end of the crisis

- Historical Figures Biographical Gallery: Video biographies of key figures involved in th crisis, featuring John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, Nikita Khruschchev, Fidel Castro and many others

- Filmmaker Commentary, with director Roger Donaldson, actor Kevin Costner and others

- Deleted Scenes with Director’s Commentary

- Bringing History to the Silver Screen Documentary

- Visual Effects Scene Deconstructions (Multi-Angle Featurette)

- Historical Information Fact Track

- Theatrical Trailer

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About the Reviewer: Rod Gustafson

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