Thirteen Days

5 out of 10


"The Red Bastards!"

They're Trying To Kill Kenny!

Who wants to go see a movie about a non-event nearly half a century ago? Not many it seems with a box office of under 38 million for a project which cost 80 million. Then again, for two weeks in October 1962, the world did hold its breath and it was a moment when ordinary men could become heroes.

Costner returns to the screen in this historical drama as the drawling Kenny O'Donnell, assistant and right hand man to President John F. Kennedy during the Cuban Missile Crisis following the installation of nuclear weapons by the Soviets on Cuban soil only a few miles away from the US.

At times overly warm and fuzzy for a story about nuclear annihilation, Thirteen Days is a cozy, family-friendly, All-American thriller with plenty of Kennedy worship and snug political chats where Costner plays a good and wholesome member of the White House staff and similar to the "Byrnes Circle of Trust" in Meet The Family, is at the centre of Kennedy's reign and at times alters history by appearing to single handedly save the world from the threat of destruction.

Fast-paced, it works as both a drama and a quick, but not terribly in-depth or honest introduction to one of the most frightening moments in recent US history pre-September 11. One of the strengths is the production design, including make-up and costumes which allow the audience to be drawn with ease into the world of Washington politics and 1960's America, followed closely by the tone of performances of Bruce Greenwood and Steven Culp both who are eerily impressive in the roles of John and Robert Kennedy.

Costner's presence at the centre of another film in the same vein as Oliver Stone's "JFK," is again a demonstration of his professional commitment to the "Camelot" of the Kennedy brothers. Even so, following on the heels of a whole list of bombs, it also suggests maybe Kevin Costner would be more appropriately named Kevin Costly, a personification of no hope movies.

Costner's Costly Dozen

FLICK US Box Office Cost Profit or Loss at US Box Office Notes
Upside Of Anger $18.8m $13.2m $5.6m Profit
Open Range $58.3m $26m
$32.3m Profit
Producer, Director also
Dragonfly $30.1m $60m
LOSS $29.9m
3000Miles To Graceland $15.7m $62m
LOSS $46.3m
Thirteen Days $34.6m $80m
LOSS $45.4m
Producer also
For The Love Of The Game $35.2m $50m
LOSS $14.8m
Message In A Bottle $52.8m $30m $22.8m Profit
The Postman $17.6m $80m
LOSS $62.4m
Producer, Director also
Tin Cup $53.9m $45m
$8.9m Profit
Waterworld $88.2m $175m
LOSS $86.8m
Producer, Director also
Wyatt Earp $25.1m $63m
LOSS $37.9m
Producer also
Rapa Nui $0.3m $20m
LOSS $19.7m
  ====== =======
TOTAL $430.6 $704.2m
LOSS $273.6m

As an Australian, director Roger Donaldson clearly shows he has little or no interest in the subject beyond his paycheck with a flat storyline, crummy camera angles and making JFK and his clique look like a bunch of cool kids smoking behind the bike shed. Backed by David Self's screenplay, Thirteen Days is often wrapped up in glamourizing the Kennedys, making Greenwood and Culp seem like overblown rock stars. Indeed it almost completely avoids the actual missile crisis and covers the story from an overly American perspective (neither Castro nor Khrushchev ever appear). Outside of the exaggeration of Kenny O'Donnell's role and the missing missile crisis, after being rejected by eight studios and three directors, it is also rumored that the project only got underway after financial support by the son of Kenny O'Donnell. By the final scenes, having covered little of the historical circumstances in any depth, the picture feels like world's biggest anticlimax, thankfully for the world, but unfortunately for the audience.

Cartman could have done better

Critic: Jennifer M Lillies