Thirteen Days. No matter the gravity of the historical event, be it the assassination of JFK or the Cuban Missile Crisis, Kevin Costner raises the hard questions: “What the hell kind of accent is that? Did Jim Garrison and Kenny O’Donnell have speech impediments?”
As to the movie, Thirteen Days is the historically inaccurate drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis told through the eyes of former JFK advisor Kenny O’Donnell, who most historians agree was more of a gofer and pal than a policy force. While it is not unreasonable to inflate the involvement of a tertiary character in historical drama, if you’re going to make stuff up, then do it smart. Make O’Donnell from Delaware, so Costner doesn’t have to butcher an accent. And make him interesting. As written in Thirteen Days and played by Costner, O’Donnell is dull as dishwater, has poor political instincts and the temperment of a teen. Indeed, his primary motivation seems to be to have the Kennedys (as played by Bruce Greenwood and Stephen Culp) really, really like him (upon reflection, given the sycophancy surrounding the Kennedys, that motivation may be more in line with actual history than I surmised).
Blocky, uniform, anti-climactic, and predictable (it even uses black-and-white reverence to Camelot), you’d do much better with the classic teleplay The Missiles of October, which had William Devane as Jack and Martin Sheen as an angry, blustering Bobby.
“Cub-er, Cub-er, Cub -ah – er”
The only thing that recommends the film is Greenwood, who does a fine job conveying President Kennedy’s angst and his sense of isolation. Conversely, Culp’s Bobby Kennedy is portrayed as borderline stupid with impulse control issues.
Even when the film does pick up a little speed (after all, it is the story of the nation on the brink of nuclear holocaust), Costner’s O’Donnell re-enters with his domestic issues and bizarre elocution, to grind it to a halt.