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"Thirteen Days"

Directed by Roger Donaldson ("No Way Out", "Species").
Written by David Self.  Based on a book by Ernest R. May and Philip D. Zelikow.
Starring Kevin Costner, Steven Culp and Bruce Greenwood.
Release Year:  2000 

Review Date:  1/15/01 


You know what I hate?

I see a lot of movies and it kills me how many times people do "The Blind Handrest."  Do you know what this is?  Here is what happens:

You are in the movie theater and of course, it is pitch black.  Grandma sitting behind you needs to go hit the head, so while getting up and walking towards the aisle, she blindly uses your head as a guide while she stumbles through human traffic to get to the aisle and walk out of the theater.  You, naturally, are so entranced by the film you are watching that getting slapped upside the head catches you totally by surprise, and this leads to about 30 seconds of anger as you curse poor Grandma as she walks by.

Well, this issue--plus the world-famous "I'm-leaning-back-in-my-chair-and-getting-kneed-in-the-back" problem that plagues many theaters--made watching "Thirteen Days" very painful for Gordon, Chuck, Keith and I today; Keith actually called it the most painful movie experience he has ever had.  And, even with all of this, three out of four really liked this film.  (Chuck commented later that while he liked the film, watching Kevin Costner perform fills him with "sheer disgust" because he hates Costner so much.)  The film--an in-depth look at the Cuban missile crisis from 1962--stars Costner as the special assistant to President John F. Kennedy (Bruce Greenwood) and good friend of John's brother Bobby (Steven Culp).  The three men collaborate to help thwart the Russians' actions in Cuba by continuously trying to steer the volatile Cabinet and various military officials towards a peaceful outcome.

Is there more than that?  Well, of course there is, but the movie takes the audience through such minute details over the course of the crisis' thirteen days that it would be impossible to cover it all here.  And, this is probably the movie's only true problem outside of its romanticized Hollywood ending:  the film is just too damn long.  Maybe it was because I had some fat guy's knee in my back, but the movie almost includes too much of what took place in the crisis' final three days.  And, as Keith wisely mentioned afterwards, *nothing* is presented in defense of Cuba or Cuban officials about their take on the actions that took place in their country; besides being rented land to the Russians, Castro and company get almost no mention in this film.  That would have added at least another half an hour, and then I would have had to kill myself.

Other than its length, the film is absolutely superb.  Full of tense moments in terms of action and arguments between the Kennedys and various government officials, the story is really different than most films about JFK.  In fact, for the first time in a JFK movie that I have seen, this film does an excellent job of just making JFK seem human and just a man that is doing his job.  Usually with JFK movies they either deal with conspiracy, his assassination or his wife...and, in "Thirteen Days", Jackie is only featured in one scene and it is of no significance.  It helps that Greenwood is very good in this film, barely one-upped by Culp as Bobby Kennedy.  And, Costner does a decent enough job with his Boston accent.

It's a bit too long, but even with that the movie is good stuff.

Rating:  $8.25 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09