For a few weeks in 1962, Americans shook with the possibility that foreign missiles would crash down on U.S. territory. This tense, frightened time comes to the silver screen as 13 Days. The movie is a manly political drama about the JFK administration during the Cuban missile crisis. It presents the White House as a clubbish, loyal team—the kind of world where pensive men hold pivotal conversations every few minutes. The overall effect is more reserved than Oliver Stone's amped-up recent histories, although the everyday nervousness during the missile crisis is never fully fleshed out.
Kevin Costner presides over the picture as presidential aide Kenny O'Donnell. This wise decision allows relative unknowns Bruce Greenwood and Stephen Culp to portray Kennedy brothers John and Robert. The actors ably depict the knights of Camelot, Boston accents notwithstanding. Accomplished scenes arrive every so often. Nevertheless, a deeper confidence seems absent. This is probably unrelated to the hard, often unflattering light it casts on JFK and American politics. For all the historical heft of the events on which 13 Days is based, the production lacks firepower.