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.
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).
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.
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.