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Click above to purchase "Thirteen Days: Infinifilm" at amazon.com

 

Thirteen Days
Infinifilm

review by Zach B.

 

 

Rated PG-13

Studio: New Line Home Entertainment

Running Time: 147 minutes

Starring Kevin Costner, Bruce Greenwod, Steven Culp, Dylan Baker

Written by David Self

Directed by Roger Donaldson

Retail Price: $29.99

Features: Historical Figure Audio Commentary, Historical Information Track, Historical Figures Biographies Gallery, Roots Of The Cuban Missle Crisis documentary, Filmmakers Commentary, Bringing History to the Silver Screen featurette, Visual Effects, Deleted Scenes with Optional Commentary, Cast and Crew Filmographies, Theatrical Trailer. DVD-ROM: Script-To-Screen Acess to the Film, Weblink

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, English Dolby Digital 5.1, English Closed Captions, Select A Scene (Movie - 32 Chapters, Infinifilm - 59 Chapters)

I think it's fair to say that Kevin Costner's body of work during the 1990s was horrendous, if anything. It seems he went downhill after his double Oscar win for the historical epic "Dances With Wolves". While he took successful turns with movies like "JFK" and "The Bodyguard", films like "For Love Of The Game", "Message In A Bottle" and the "The Postman" made him a punchline in Hollywood. The thing is not only did he star in those films which people do still mock, he produced them. Let's face it, when I heard Costner was producing and starring in "Thirteen Days", I was not expecting anything more than historical inaccuracies, boring scenes and plain idiocy. But when I got into that theater last Winter and sat down to watch it, I was dead wrong. "Thirteen Days" is Costner's best producing work in years, as he helps deliver a stellar movie about a very important time in American history.

Costner is Kenny O'Donnell, who at the start of the film, appears to be a good-natured family man. However, we soon learn that he is the special assistant to President John F. Kennedy (an excellent Bruce Greenwood &endash; who really was Oscar ®worthy here). The film centers around the unforgettable two weeks during October 1962 when U-2 surveillance photos were discovered showing that the Soviet Union was placing nuclear weapons in Cuba. These weapons could wipe out a good chunk of the United States within in minutes. This, of course, became known as the Cuban Missile Crisis. Kennedy is eager to show that he is up to the threat, but he and his staff must find a plan of action against the Soviets. The Pentagon advises that the United Sates military strikes against Cuba, but Kennedy doesn't want to go through with that. He feels if the U.S. invades, the Soviets will retaliate in Europe. A nuclear showdown seems to be at handÉ and I'm sure if you know your history, you know what happens in the end.

The Cuban Missile Crisis was way before my time, but I'm not sure if people realize how close we came to nuclear war. This film is simply breathtaking and really appears to be historically accurate (it's based on Ernet R. May's book "The Kennedy Tapes"). You probably know that a nuclear showdown is prevented, but this film is so well made and gives you a very good idea of how intense things were with the JFK administration. This movie rivals any thriller currently in theaters, it features many breathtaking moments that will have you on the edge of your seat.

This film has some really nice production values. There is never a dull moment in the script, and presents everything in a clear manner without making it sound stupid, but it is easy to understand. There is a very good amount of intelligence in this movie. While the film is a bit lengthy, everything presented is needed to tell the story. As the crisis goes on in the film, each moment becomes more captivating and driven. While this film is a historical drama, there are moments now and then that have some humor to give it a little more to the mix. Again, it all appears to be historically accurate (as far as I know, though I think O'Donnell's role in the film is expanded).

Roger Donaldson, who I am not a big fan of, directed the movie and it's clearly his best work ever. While some of us couldn't stand "Species" or his horrendous remake of "The Getaway", Donaldson moves the film at a good pace, spending the appropriate amount of time on each thing. He makes a two and a half-hour film seem like a mere hour. There are some nice shots in the film to really draw you in and make you feel like you're there watching it all unfold, but what bothered me was that at points the film would shift from color to black and white and back to color again. I guess the black and white shots were to show the importance of what was being shown, but the way it shifts and what he feels is important gets annoying. Still, it's a top notch job (and Costner was even considering to direct the film).

The performances are mesmerizing, to say the least. Costner's South Boston accent gets old and annoying fast, but he is very believable as Kenny O'Donnell. Bruce Greenwood as JFK himself is, like I said, was really Oscar® worthy, as I was really disappointed he did not get a nomination. While he really doesn't have Kennedy's accent (he's Canadian, by the way), he brings JFK to full life. The actors really make history leap out and give a good idea of how things were in the White House during the crisis. The actors play off each other very well, and everyone is pretty much outstanding, including Steven Culp as Bobby Kennedy and Bill Smitrovich as General Maxwell Taylor.

As far as other things go with the film, there are some nice touches. The musical score is excellent, really just adding to the drama and tension. It's loud, strong and represents the people trying to get out of the Cuban Missile Crisis. Also, references to the paranoia people had (showing a film clip of children ducking outside in case of nuclear attackÉ like a desk or the sky is really going to save them), the Bay of Pigs and a little more important, the book "The Guns Of August", which can represent the film itself. A lot of this movie deals with communication and people take their stand in tough times. I guess you could say a lot of miscommunication led to the Cuban Missle Crisis, but I'm not sure how many people even know that Kennedy got us into it in the first place. While some comments are made about that during the first half hour of the movie, the movie basically focuses on how he and his staff tried to get out of it and stop it.

This movie, I think, should be shown in history classrooms around the world. Not only is it very interesting and intense, but it is very well made and really shows what went on as well as what the public never got a chance to see or know. Besides the history portion, there is also a very good lesson to learn about communication and how people react during major events in their lifetime. While I'm sure this movie won't appeal to many people (I had very little desire to see it originally), if you get yourself to sit down and watch it, you're more than likely to get something out of it. History buffs and those who were alive first hand to experience it will eat it all up, as it will take them back and have them remember an important time during JFK's presidency and U.S. history. Whatever you do, don't miss "Thirteen Days". I think this movie was REALLY snubbed for some major awards, especially for its writing, editing, technical features and acting... it's just a fabulous movie all around, and to think that so much of this really happened. It clearly rivals any Hollywood thriller out there and it works as one too. This film is so powerful, so gripping and so intense. I saw this movie in the theater and again, I was really disappointment at how much it was snubbed. New Line's strategy didn't work either, really. The film was supposed to go wide December 20th, 2000, but they held off. They released it in a few theaters Christmas Day that year, and it went wide January 12th, 2001. The film raked in about 35 million, with a budget of about 80 million. I personally think if the film could have been promoted more, as well as marketed differently, it could have been bigger. But maybe people were turned off by the whole history aspect of the film, maybe not.

Still, while "Thirteen Days" was snubbed for awards and wasn't seen by many, I'm sure a ton of people are going to see it now, all thanks to the new revolutionary Infinifilm banner from New Line Home Entertainment. While I'm sure a good majority are going to check this DVD set out for the supplements, the presentation and the fact that it's the first official Infinifilm disc, the movie is now getting a very good deal of exposure, and now people will finally be able to see a fantastic film they probably missed the first time around. That makes me very happy, because this film was really ignored, and I think everyone should see it.

...and as far as Kevin Costner's career goesÉ we'll wait and see. Though it's a good bet he'll be back to unleash more horrible films on the world.

As we know in the past, New Line has delivered incredible transfers for their films, standard or Platinum Series. Their first official Infinifilm DVD release, however, is a bit disappointing. Not that it's bad, it's pretty great, but compared to New Line's past track record it looks like they have gone down a tiny notch. "Thirteen Days" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen, the original theatrical aspect ratio it was presented in. The transfer represents the movie pretty well. Black levels are deep, detail is pretty incredible while colors and hues are accurate and really well saturated. Fleshtones als appear natural. While there is a lot to like, I noticed that the image was pretty grainy, sometimes more then other times. The movie is pretty sharp, but there were points during the movie where it looked really soft. I also noticed a blemish here and there, but nothing too distracting. Shimmering also appears sometimes as well. I guess I was expecting near-perfection considering how great other New Line transfers were, but, this is a disappointment. There's a lot to love, and a few things to dislike. Still, it's a very good transfer.

Though it may not seem like a great film to utilize audio, but the English 5.1 Dolby Digital track on "Thirteen Days" is pretty extradoniary. True, most of the film is talk, but there are quite a few parts that will utilize your speakers. Dialogue is crisp and easy to hear, it's very clean and not distorted. The sound has a good balance so nothing overpowers anything else. What I liked so much about this track though is that how it builds up tension as the movie goes on. Things become more and more intense for JFK and the administration. The surrounds used pack a really good punch. Despite the thrilling music from Trevor Jones that sounds great through the speakers and really helps build things on, this track features high fidelity and some extensive .1 LFE that is put to some incredible use. When you hear those jets flying overhead, you'll really feel like you're there. This is a very healthy mix complete with action packed surrounds, and as I mentioned, builds things on to a great deal. All of this and you feel like you're there. I was expecting a DTS 5.1 track too as in the original press release, but it is nowhere to be found. There's no English Dolby Surround track or English subtitles like usual New Line titles features, which I found a bit weird. You do have English closed captions through your TV though.

Here we go... the first official and major Infinifilm title, New Line Home Entertainment is out to create even better special editions of their movies. While I was a big fan of their Platinum Series titles, and I thought they did good jobs with their standard editions, Infinifilm takes everything to the next level to give you more insight about the creation of their films and background subject matter. The idea seems familiar: during the movie you click on something and the film stops to take you to a behind-the-scenes featurette or a cut scene. It may seem like nothing new, however, I think it's still pretty revolutionary and offers a lot more then other titles where you click a logo to see something. New Line really pushes it by cramming everything from both ends (background history and making the film). It's really easy to use and works incredibly well too. You can watch the movie by itself or with Infinifilm enabled, a menu with options will come up during portions of the movie and you can stop the movie and be taken to those features if you so choose. If not, it'll go away until the next batch of things you can check out comes up. A lot of the choices you can see do reflect what happens in the film as you watch. It may be a bit distracting as you jump back and forth between the supplements and film, but you really get the most out of it. You can't pause, rewind or fast forward while the choices are up either. The DVD box suggests to watch the film first and then go through with the Infinifilm. I really do agree with that as far as getting distracted and whatnot. For me, I mentioned I saw the film in the theater so I was ready to jump into Infinifilm. And if you're curious, you can toggle the Infinifilm mode on and off by pressing your subtitle key to go to another subtitle track (Infinifilm is on stream 2).

While you can go through the supplements during the film, if you don't have the patience to sit through the film and watch everything together, you can also access everything seperatley (a wise and obvious choice on New Line's part). Features are broken up into two different sections: Beyond The Movie which deals with the actual history and true events and All Access Pass has features that deal with the creation of the film. A lot of the stuff during Infinifilm is broken up into little pieces as you watch the movie so you don't go off track for a really long amount of time, but seperatley you can see things in their entirety or simply go right to a certain portion as a good deal of some of the things have chapter stops encoded (a nice touch if I say so myself).

I'll start with Beyond The Movie. As I said, these supplements deal with the actual people, Cuban Missle Crisis, history and the whole deal of real-life events. The Historical Figures Commentary features President John F. Kennedy, Special Assitant Kenneth O'Donnell, Historian and son of Mikita Khrushchev Seregi Krushchev, authors and historians Ernest R. May (who wrote the book for some of the movie's source material) and Philip D. Zelikov, press secretary Pierre Salinger and secretary of defense of Robert McMazara. This track is obviously edited (hmm, you think?) and some of the stuff is scratchy, and each participant is introduced (there are also some other people on the track who I did not mention). Things don't always relate to on screen, and I think this track will bore many, but it is rather interesting with the information and getting a perspective from so many different people. History buffs are going to eat this up, and I think students who are interested in this matter will get a lot out of this too. There's a lot of information to absorb here as far as history and other factors, so enjoy it. It's quite a nice reference to have and hear.

The Historical Information Track is a subtitle stream track that as the movie plays, you'll get bits of information about the film and actual events as well as people. This is nice, but there's quite a few time lapses as you wait for the next bit of information. I found this to be annoying. Still, what's presented on screen provides some good tidbits that I really enjoyed.

Now, here's something that I really liked and got a lot out of. The Historical Figures Biographical Gallery presents short filmed biographies about particular people involved with the events. I think students as well as all sorts of people will get a lot out of this as they can now have more background on the people and learn more about them (extra knowledge always helps) in a more detailed, thoughtful manner. These aren't standard history facts, but rather, a lot focus on thoughts and how the people dealt with things. All of these are in anamorphic widescreen, feature interviews and newsreel clips. The bios are divided into five sections: "Leaders" (John F. Kennedy, Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro), "Advisors" (Robert Kennedy, Kenneth O' Donnell, Dean Acheson, McGeorge Bundy, Rbert McNamara, John McCono, Theodore Sorensen, Dean Rusk), "Military" (General Maxwell Taylor and General Curtis LeMay), "Diplomats" (Adlai Stevenson and Anatoly Dobrynin) and finally, "Press" ("John Scali and Pierre Salinger). I highly reccomend everyone give a few of these a spin, they're short, sweet and most importantly, interesting.

Roots Of The Cuban Missle Crisis is a fascinating, forty-eight documentary that has old news clips, stills and a slew of interviews that include Sam Donaldson, Ernest R. May, Marv Kalb, Philip Zelikow and a few others. This is broken up in chapter stops, and I mentioned, is broken up when you play "Infinifilm". Like so much of the other hisotrical stuff, this is a nice thing that should be played in classrooms for students to learn from. This is nicely editied, focuses on good points and has a well-rounded feel to it. This is a very serious and documentary. It is a bit dry, but like so many of the extras on this release, there's a lot to gain out of this and if you're the least bit interested in the Cuban Missle Crisis or related topics, go watch this. It goes by quick.

Now, the All Access Pass features. The Filmmakers Commentary has director Roger Donaldson, Kevin Costner, writer David Self, executive and former New Line honco Michael De Luca, producer Arayan Bernstein and visual effects supervisor Michael McAlister. This audio commentary is obviously edited and not always screen specific, as some of the filmmakers are recorded together and others aren't. Still, the editing of the people is fantastic and flows really well like everyone is there together. Everyone brings their own bits of information as they talk about making the actual film, stories, their thoughts and having the actual history of it all. If you liked the movie and were interested about the filmmakers' thoughts as well as the production, don't miss this. I liked it a lot. It's dry, but it didn't feel that way.

Bringing History To The Silver Screen is a featurette that lasts eleven minutes that has clips from the movie, some old reference footage, stills and a slew of interviews with the filmmakers such as David Self, Kevin Costner, Roger Donaldson, producer Peter O. Almond, executive producer, Ilona Herzberg, Bruce Greenwood some of the historical guys and quite a few others. This felt a little promotional, but it's pretty open and has some interesting behind-the-scenes stuff as well that didn't make it too fluffy. It's chapter encoded plus is in anamorphic widescreen. I liked this a lot, and I think fans of the film will too.

Visual Effects is an angle feature, complete with an intro from visual effects supervisor Michael McAllister where he talks about the evolution of an effect and what he does. This scene is of a plane flight. You have five angles to choose from: plane without animation, rough animation/greenscreen, flat color animation, composite and of course, the final film. You view all angles seperatley as they go in a row (the scene is around thirty seconds). Nothing new, but nicely done and presented.

I earlier mentioned in the review of the movie how each scene is needed and key to the film. Despite the movie's running time, I felt the movie did not drag and everything was important. However, cuts were made as you can see in the Deleted Scenes section of the DVD. There are nine of them, each an incredibly short length. Personally, I liked all of these scenes and I felt they could have fit into the film nicely (you can watch them at the appropriate moments with Infinifilm turned on). They are in anamorphic widescreen, and have optional commentary from Roger Donaldson. He explains his choices and thoughts, but still, there's good stuff here.

Rounding the disc out are Cast and Crew Filmographies, the Theatrical Trailer in Dolby Digital 5.1 and anamorphic widescreen, plus some DVD-ROM features that include Script-To-Screen Acess to the Film, a Weblink to the original site and other exclusive features.

While the features may not seem like an overwhelming much, trust me, there is a lot to learn and go through. I think New Line has done an oustanding job with the supplements and with this Infinifilm title, it really feels interactive and is not hard to use, it blends perfectly. They were also kind enough to include question marks on nearly every menu so if you're curious or don't understand something, you can click on the question mark and it will provide a brief summary. It's nice to see they include the question marks for standard DVD terms, so newbies to the format won't get confused and learn. Also, the movie comes in a nice case (no more annoying snappers for New Line, I'm guessing). On another note, I really did like the menus as they did represent the film without going over the top. While I mentioned this is a movie that should be shown in classrooms, I really think this DVD should be shown in classrooms as well. Teachers usual visuals to teach their students (of course) by showing documentaries, movies and all sorts of things. The history supplements included on this disc are quite educational, and feature some great biographies of those involved in the actual Cuban Missle Crisis, interviews and a whole lot more that will really help students learn and experience. It'd probably initate discussion and really help get more out of the topic. As the DVD format has really taken off, I expect to see schools get a few DVD players for their classrooms to show things on... "Thirteen Days" would be a fabulous addition to a school's DVD library. I can see future Infinifilm titles having their benefits for learning too... the upcoming "15 Minutes" is an Infinifilm title, and that movie deals with the media, so I could really see media classes and journalism classes putting that movie to good use.

New Line has once again raised the benchmark on the DVD front. First they brought up some sweet Platinum Series discs complete with incredible presentations and great bonus material, now with their new Infinifilm series, they go beyond that with a presentation that will make every jaw drop complete with some thorough, in-depth supplementary material. There is no doubt Infinifilm is the next step in the DVD industry, as it is quite revolutionary and really, really shows what DVD can do as well as how beneficial it can be for so many people. But beyond the whole new Infinifilm logo and series, "Thirteen Days" is an incredible historical drama that sadly tanked at the box office and with awards last year, and now with the Infinifilm logo on the box (as well as the buzz behind it), it's sure to attract quite an audience, as it rightfully deserves. Why some people may only be curious for this movie for the supplements and to see everything in action, they'll be treated to one fine damn film. "Thirteen Days" is truly one of the best DVD releases this year, if not, one of the best ever. Great movie, great disc... what more can I say? Buy it! Well, actually, there is more...

I really think this movie deserves a spot in everyone's collection far beyond the actual disc. Yes it's everything a DVD should be (that's a reason so many people will check it out and they should), but for me, "Thirteen Days" is a movie that will be remembered generations for now, as it captures the intensity of an incredible time in American history. I feel it's important to know history. And while we can't experience everything first hand, movies tend to create a great job of getting us as close as we can, even with some liberties here and there. The Cuban Missle Crisis was an important point in Kennedy's adminstration and a really important time in American history, it's something we should take the time to learn about, and watching this movie as well as going into the supplements will give you a mind-boggling sense about that. I really think everyone should realize (well, everyone in the U.S. at the very least) how close the United States came at starting a nuclear war and that people should learn about very important times in history, so they have some kind of sense about their country and possibly themselves. This movie perfectly paints the portrait of the Cuban Missle Crisis, complete with phenomenal acting, writing, editing, effects and directing. Get it or rent it for your reasons, but if you haven't already, keep my reasons in mind. While it's all opinion, I hope some of you out there agree with me.

(4.5/5 - NOT included in final score)

(4/5)

(4.5/5)

(4.5/5)

(4.5/5, NOT an average)

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