Saturday, October 15, 2005


Thirteen Days. This was terrific. I had low expectations for it, but I decided to watch it so I could keep intact my streak of watching movies about the Cuban Missile Crisis on the train to Philadelphia.

OK, Kevin Costner -- not my favorite actor. The wife rented The Upside of Anger last month and he was tolerable in that. He was OK in this, although he had the worst Bahh-stun accent in the history of American cinema. But he succeeded at his biggest task, which was credibly portraying a trusted friend/adviser to JFK and RFK and making his relationship with them grounded and believable. This went a long way to establishing these mythologized historical figures as real people, which was one of the chief accomplishments of this movie. So Costner deserves some credit for that. But overall, his presence as the designated above-the-line star was a distraction. I realize the movie probably wouldn't have been made without an A-list star, but it detracted from the realism.

There were many scenes in this movie which initially seemed to be headed in very predictable Tom Clancy/Hollywood directions. There was the standard subplot involving Costner's long-suffering wife stuck at home with five kids while he tossed footballs with the Kennedys in the Oval Office. In almost every instance, the scenes developed into something far richer and more complex than expected. There was a scene in the middle of the movie that was one of the best things of this type I've ever seen, involving Sec o' Defense McNamara and an admiral in a tense and crowded Pentagon situation room. McNamara's speech, and the admiral's response, were 6 or 8 jumps away from where the scene started and appeared to be going. I don't think I drew a breath during the dialogue between them. It was absolutely brilliantly written, acted and filmed.

This wasn't much of a hit when it came out a few years ago, and I never hear anybody talk about it. It's the kind of movie that probably has trouble finding an audience -- it's not a chick flick (I think the only substantial female role in it is the wife, whatever her name was) and it's not a macho action movie. For what it's worth, I highly recommend it.

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