Thirteen Days
***.1 GM
Starring: Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwood, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker, Walt Adrian

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I tend to like historical half-fiction movies like this - flicks like JFK, Nixon, Braveheart, what have you. Makes ya feel like yer learnin' as well as killin' a couple of hours that you could be spending reading actual facts about history, but everyone needs to take these movies with a few shakers full of salt. It'd be really cool if we didn't need disclaimers on these films to let us know 'composite characters have been created' and all of that. Then again, if they stayed true to every actual event, all this stuff would be a lot less exciting, because real life is boring and full of yawning, scratching and sitting around.

The 1960s were a very interesting time in American politics. Everyone was terrified of Commies with Nukes. They were the Evil Empire, a reputation earned by Stalin that carried over in American minds until the end of the 80s, and whether or not Russian leaders were actually evil bastards or just the same general handful of disagreeable, confused schmucks with too much power that America had never really made any difference. People were on the lookout for "the Big Red Dog," which makes you wonder how those Clifford books ever made it to classrooms.

The Kennedys are ridiculously glorified and pathetically overworshipped OR reviled with an animosity that they don't deserve. Here, they're portrayed as human beings, full characters and not just caricatures. It also helps that Kevin Costner seems to have returned to JFK to remember how to act, playing Kennedy pal Kenny O'Donnell. Bruce Greenwood does a good JFK, Steven Culp does a good RFK, and Walt Adrian does a great Lyndon Johnson. This is the story of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, where the USSR began building hardcore weaponry in Communist Cuba and made America shit a brick or two at the thought of nuclear war. So the Kennedy administration had to figure out a way to maneuver a deal to get those missiles outta there without caving in to drooling military guys that just want to bomb 'em to the Stone Age - which would, of course, lead to World War III, Thunderdome, and Judge Dredd.

Even though the outcome is known beforehand, it still makes for a good political thriller. All the delicate negotiations are underscored by just how frustrating it is to have to jump through these hoops to prevent people from destroying the world they don't really want to destroy. It must have been infuriating to these guys to have to put on all these ruffled feather shows and hiss-fits for each other just to prevent global catastrophe that could also be avoided if both sides just had the guts to sit down and honestly haggle with each other. Then again, it was a very different mainstream mindset back then, but you can still see that annoyance on the Kennedy faces as they figure out how to work this intricate dog and pony show called the Cold War.

Dylan Baker is also good as McNamara, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to see him and NOT think of Happiness. Ergh... gah... blargh.

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