DIRECTOR: Roger Donaldson
May Contain Spoilers!
The thirteen days in which the world came as close as it ever would to a full on nuclear conflict, occurred in October 1962, just a year before John. F. Kennedy’s fateful trip to Dallas. But the details of this landmark events are often broken down in to foot notes, such a the secret deal with Khrushchev, the blockade of Cuba and the famous television address, but Roger Donaldson’s drama serves to flesh out the crisis, one day at a time.
The first brilliant move here was in the casting, as well as the development of the key figures, namely John and Bobby Kennedy, played by Bruce Greenwood & Steven Culp. Both of whom take on the role, the persona and the mannerisms but only to point that we know who they are. They then act them out rather than impersonate them, a major misstep with the more recent and disappointing The Kennedy’s TV mini-series. The other was to add Kevin Costner’s Special Assistant to the President role as a key player and our entry in to the world as a whole. Who is this Kenny O’Donnell? If you’re not up on all the details of the Kennedy White House then I doubt that beyond this movie that you’ll have heard of him because I certainly hadn’t. In fact, there is some debate of the prominent role of Kenny O’Donnell in the real life drama, but either way, it works here.
But the trio work, giving us a dynamic to follow as we meet a veritable who’s who of the Kennedy era, all trying to learn as they go how to communicate via grand gestures on a world stage, to prevent the Cold War from becoming something much more real. The story is methodical in nature, taking each day as it comes, drawing us in to the tense and seemingly doomed scenario as Kennedy and his advisors try to prevent World War III, whilst railing against his own Generals who seem to want nothing else and are constantly frustrating their efforts to maintain peace.
The performances are great, not 100% realistic, still falling into melodramatic and drama/thriller tropes at times but still very enjoyable and measured as real event are portrayed with a sense of majesty and realism. I love this film. It works on so many levels but its pacing, detail and Trevor Jones’ gripping score. This is not one to be missed and the only theatrical dramatisation of these events out there, with a TV version from the 1970’s being the only real competition.
The Cuban Missile Crisis began on the 14th October 1962, 61 years ago today.