The film Thirteen Days shows the viewer a “blockbuster” look at the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis that challenged the Kennedy administration. It does a reasonable job of sifting through history and picking the pieces that allow the audience to understand the historical event and enjoy the movie without being overloaded with information. The character of the President’s fiercely loyal aid, Kenneth O’Connell played by the actor Kevin Costner is followed throughout the film to give a more personal feel to viewer. Not a bad idea, however, Costner makes the worst attempt at an accent that I have ever heard. This, unfortunately deterred me for the remainder of the film. O’Connell’s relationship with the two Kennedy’s is also a key part of the film. Bruce Greenwood who plays president Kennedy does an admirable job of portraying a president who “won high praise for his grace under pressure and the way he sifted conflicting advice and made decisions (Shaller, p.196).” The interaction between all of the characters in the film were sufficient in showing the viewer the effects of politics behind the scenes, away from the public eye.
The film follows the Crisis from the pictures initially taken of the U.S.S.R.’s missiles in Cuba by a U2 plane to the U.S.S.R.’s agreement to remove its missiles and troops form Cuba and the U.S.’s removal of missiles from Turkey. The latter scene brings up one of the main historical questions that the film presents. In the Present Tense text it was stated that the U.S. did not remove the missiles from Turkey until after the Soviet’s had removed theirs, and that the U.S. had done this “silently.” Yet another source declared that Kennedy had already ordered the removal of missiles in Turkey that were considered outmoded, but that he refused to act “under the gun.” The final result it states, was that Kennedy agreed to the original offer – not to invade Cuba – and ignored the Soviet request to remove missiles from Turkey (Tindall, 1988).
... attitude he demonstrated the willingness to take the American missiles out of Turkey. Kennedy was also concerned that he needed to be ... the United States since the United States had put missiles in Turkey. Kennedy was concerned that wile he was making these decisions ... to force Khrushchev to remove the missiles before the November elections which would be waged on Kennedy's political vulnerability on ...
In contrast, the film shows that the U.S. agreed to remove the missiles from Turkey simultaneously and that this information had been leaked out by the administration – as was shown in the picketing scene outside the White House. I am not sure why the writers would have chosen to do this other than to make the U.S. look more reasonable in their negotiations with the Soviet’s, or perhaps simply to add more drama.
Another major part of the Missile Crisis that was described in the text was the involvement of Fidel Castro, which was completely over-looked in the film. Although the focus of the entire Crisis was centered around Cuba, Castro was portrayed more as a pawn in the middle of the tensions between the two larger Soviet and American powers. His involvement, apparently, was very limited. There is a rare mention of him scattered throughout my sources. One book provided the logical explanation that, amongst the intense tensions between the U.S. and the Soviet Union concerning the possibility of an all out nuclear war, the issue of Castro’s take over in Cuba was relatively insignificant. However, in relation to this view, I found it interesting that the United States did not consider Castro’s take over of power as a significant encroachment of the Soviets in there sphere of influence (prior to the Crisis), yet the missiles were considered to be of such importance because they posed a military threat. At least that was the opinion of one source, however, I was under the impression that the U.S. did consider Castro a significant threat to their influence in the Caribbean, and that they had already attempted to oust him in the Bay of Pigs invasion (Spanier, 1987).
... taking the offense. The primary questions for Americans was: would the Soviets introduce offensive missiles into Cuban territory End A Navy SIGINT ... as well. However, Castro soon took actions inimical to American interests and aligned his country publicly with the Soviet Union. The U ... is the story of SIGINT in the Cuban Missile Crisis. When Fidel Castro took power in Cuba by overthrowing the previous ...
The film does, however, give an excellent representation of the important process of “crisis management” that was key in the nuclear era, in which a crisis could essentially be seen as a substitute for war. This as was demonstrated in the film, is a process marked by caution and restraint rather than the impulsiveness and recklessness that took place in the pre-nuclear era. With the U.S. knowledge of the Soviet missiles in Cuba before they had been fully installed – thanks to the pictures taken by U-2 planes – they had a week in which to determine an appropriate response, a luxury that is rare in crisis situations. The film portrayed tensions and motives within the Kennedy administration during the crisis management process more thoroughly than it portrayed the developments between the U.S. and the Soviets.
The decision of the film makers to focus on U.S. crisis management and internal relations, rather than the their interactions with the Soviet’s was a very creative and educational way to give the audience a look at the Crisis. This is a view that we wouldn’t be able to read in a textbook – at least not in the depth that the film presents. This approach makes the film more interesting for the viewer. Making a film out of an actual historical event is difficult, because the ending is predetermined. However, Thirteen Days adds thrill and suspense to such an event.
In contrast, since this film is – after all – an American blockbuster, it was presented in a very U.S. centered, patriotic manner. The film essentially made the Cubans look like the bad guys, when they were just trying to protect their own country. In addition, the Soviets were made to look like little kids trying to test the limitations of their parents. Therefore, as any blockbuster would, the film portrays the Americanized view on the Crisis with lots of action and suspense, and little examination of the various characters and motivations of the three nations. It also does not take into account the reaction of the Europeans, which was largely negative due to the fact that neither the Soviet’s nor the Americans consulted their allies while they approached the brink of war. In terms of the benefits of viewing the film in class, it is a very entertaining way to present American history, although the plot is very one-sided. Despite the fact that the writers chose to present the Missile Crisis in this manner, the film still manages to relay a lot of key information on the events surrounding the Crisis in a limited amount of time. Therefore, I would still recommend showing it in class.
... Cuban Missile Crisis, 1962 presents an integrated, comprehensive record of U. S. decision making during the most dangerous U. S. -Soviet confrontation in ... published accounts of the Cuban missile crisis, the dispute did not immediately end with the Soviet decision on October 28 to remove ... with Cuba and the Soviet Union in 1961-the Bay of Pigs invasion and the Berlin crisis-have been excluded from ...
Russett, Bruce; Starr, Harvey. (1992).
World Politics: The Menu for Choice (4th edition).
New York: W. H. Freeman and Company.
Schaller, Micheal; et al. (1996).
Present Tense (2nd edition).
Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
Spanier, John. (1987).
Games Nations Play (6th edition).
Washington D.C.: Congressional Quarterly, Inc.
Tindall, George Brown. (1988).
America: A Narrative History (volume II, 2nd edition).
New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc.