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Thirteen Days (2000)

Cuba. 1962. You’ll never believe how close we came.

Rating: 8/10

Running Time: 143 minutes

UK Certificate: 12


Kevin Costner stars as Kenny O'Donnell, advisor and friend to President John F Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) during some of the most difficult days of the Cold War. In 1962, surveillance photographs taken from the air reveal that the Soviet Union is in the process of installing nuclear weapons in Cuba, threatening the mainland United States. President Kennedy, with the advice of O'Donnell and brother Bobby (Steven Culp) must steer his country through a political minefield without triggering World War III. Kennedy favours a diplomatic solution, although he must find a way to do so without weakening the US position.

US military leaders, still smarting from the 'Bay of Pigs' fiasco, are pressing for a harder stance against the Soviet Union, and an invasion of Cuba. The President is reluctant to agree to this because he fears it could cause a Soviet retaliation in Europe. Eventually consensus is reached on a 'quarantine' around Cuba to prevent further Soviet deliveries, but this is a temporary solution at best. Things are complicated because communications with the Soviets can be difficult – it isn't even always clear who is in charge in the Kremlin. Frenzied negotiations take place, but time is running out and the threat of nuclear war looms ever closer.

This fine political thriller is a tense and largely accurate recounting of real events that took place in 1962. It is told from the point of view of O'Donnell, Kennedy's closest aide, thus avoiding the mistake of making it a 'Kennedy movie' although a little more insight into the Kennedy brothers' thoughts and feelings would not have gone amiss. The three leads are all quite outstanding, bringing different qualities to each of their characters, aided by some excellent performances from a number of the supporting cast. The use of historical footage is handled with some care, and is in no way out of place, especially given the authentic feel of the movie itself. The real star of this film though is the story – fiction can't compete with this.

It's Got: Plenty of tension throughout.

It Needs: More insight into the thinking and emotions of the Kennedy brothers.

DVD Extras A fine informative package of extras is included with this single-disc release. Extras: Filmmakers’ commentary, Historical figures commentary, Deleted scenes, Introduction to visual effects, Multi-angle scene, Historical documentary, Production documentary, Biographical sketches, Theatrical trailer. DVD Extras Rating: 7/10


This is an outstanding historic political thriller that jangles the nerves, made all the more powerful because of the significance of the true events on which it is based.