That's not really neoliberalism, moreover, nobody is getting banned for that word.
First and foremost, I would like to say that the film is not meant to be the last word, or the first word, on the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Inevitably, we have been forced to compress events and, at times, even conflate the comments and functions of participants of the crisis to meet the demands of a dramatic narrative. We believe, however, that this kind of dramatic narrative imposes a responsibility upon us as filmmakers to remain faithful to the most important themes and issues which a consensus of historians and policy experts have identified as constituting the historical record.
It is difficult to establish absolute criteria for assessing dramatic interpretations of history, but at the same time it is necessary to recognize that standards do exist, and that they must be identified and served by responsible filmmakers.
In the case of Thirteen Days, the writer and producers and director were so struck by the nature of the historical record itself that they felt it was unwise to range widely from it.
The problem was more one of effective story telling in dramatic film narrative-distilling the powerful events and issues of the Cuban Missile Crisis in an accessible format-than it was one of manufacturing a dramatic story.
The very nature of that situation-the pressure of a nuclear threat posed in the early years of the Cold War-made our job simply one of effectively conveying the intensity of that moment. In terms of portraying historical personages and analyzing how the crisis was resolved, we needed to isolate the character traits that got people into this situation and ultimately helped them get out of it.
We were inclined to stay close to the actual nature and behavior of the key people, to focus in on a small number of them, and to make the movie story as clear and easy to follow while simultaneously remaining consistent with the historical record.
As a result, we studied the personalities, behavior, and positions of the President, the Attorney General, and their advisors. We wanted the audience to watch the debate go back and forth among the civilian and military advisors and to track the decision-making process.
In terms of our hopes for the film, we want to inspire the audience to learn more about the Cuban Missile Crisis, because it contains some important lessons for today, and because it sets a standard for how we view leadership, public leadership, in the face of tremendous adversity.
We have struggled to be faithful to the historical record, if inspired by it to dramatize the story, but dramatized in such a way that central themes of the crisis, the nature of leadership and its importance, the nature of the nuclear threat, the importance of judgment in the office and person of the President the United States accurately reflect the events of October of We hope that these key themes are embodied in the film and that, ideally, the audience will seek information about these important events, through web sites, testimony, transcripts, documents, and through the scholarship and various memoirs that have been produced in the years since the crisis.
It recalls vividly a confrontation in which nuclear war was really possible, reminding us of an enduring truth about the nuclear age. It allows the audience to experience vicariously the irreducible uncertainties, frustrating foul-ups, and paralyzing fear of failure in deciding about actions that could trigger reactions that killed million fellow citizens.
The film is not a documentary. Rather, it is a dramatization. Compressing Thirteen Days into minutes necessitates distortion of many specific historical facts. My book on the Missile Crisis, Essence of Decision, offers a Roshamon-like account of the actual events, highlighting ways in which the lens through which one views the facts shapes what one sees.
As President John F.
Kennedy observed with specific reference to the Missile Crisis: By what standards should accuracy and fidelity in Hollywood history be judged?
How faithful is the movie to the central truths about this historical event? Here, I believe, the producers deserve high marks. They have not only attempted, but succeeded in entertaining in ways that convey messages that resonate with the central truths of the crisis.
At its best the film should prick the curiosity of viewers about the actual history of the Cuban Missile Crisis and lead them to reflect on its lessons and implications. We had a long talk, and afterward someone else at Beacon sent me a copy of the script, written by David Self.
He was a long-term close associate of John and Robert Kennedy and an important figure in the White House, and the tapes do show that he attended some of the meetings concerned with the crisis. At one, he raised an important question that was then pressed insistently by JFK: Just what were U.
There are two ways to look at this movie: In my opinion, Thirteen Days succeeds as a thriller. Donaldson also directed Costner in No Way Out, which was a hard movie to walk out on. Thirteen Days is many times more gripping. This means that when I say I like the movie, the reader is entitled to wonder if my subconscious mind is counting royalties.
I should also add that after I read the script, I sent the director some suggestions, and in October Zelikow and I and a number of others were invited to a prescreening in Washington, D.
But there was never any fee paid for my consultation or even any travel- expense reimbursement. But does the movie succeed as a history?
My verdict on its accuracy is mixed. The movie skews many small points and a few large ones. In most instances, these discrepancies are simply the result of squeezing into a two-hour film a day crisis that had major turns more than once every half-hour.
But two aspects of the movie grossly distort reality. First, with the exception of Robert Kennedy, the advisers assembled around the president neither develop as characters in their own right nor even resemble the real-life men.
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