Films About the Cuban Missile Crisis

January 18, 2012

in Movies

In a previous post, I discussed films about the Cold War. There are few films about the actual crisis. The most recent film dedicated to the Cuban Missile Crisis is “Thirteen Days” (2000) starring Kevin Costner and based on Robert F. Kennedy’s book Thirteen Days: A Memoir of the Cuban Missile Crisis.

The movie  focuses almost entirely on the thirteen days of the actual crisis. It takes the audience inside the tense meetings of Kennedy and his cabinet as they discuss options and tactics. The film shows how Kennedy’s inner circle made plans to protect their families in case of attack, when the men of cabinet themselves would be taken to a secure place with the president.

Another excellent insight into just how close we came to a thermo-nuclear war with Russia is The Fog of War, a 2003 American documentary film about the life and times of Robert S. McNamara, former US Secretary of Defense for John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson. In the early part of this documentary, McNamara discusses the dramatic decisions the administration considered and made during the crisis. McNamara is candid as he discusses the conflict between the president and his military advisors. The military was in favor of attacking Cuba as soon as the missiles were discovered, but Tommy Thompson, former ambassador to the Soviet Union, lobbied for a more measured response, which we now know allowed Khrushchev a way to remove the missiles and save face.

“The Missiles of October” is a 1974 docudrama produced for television which gave the public their first glimpse into the behind scenes negotiations of the Kennedy administration.

While my novel Bombshells is more about a family than the actual crisis, it was important for me to discover what information the Adams family would have access to.  Newspaper micro-fiche and whatever archived news broadcasts I could find indicated the public was generally unaware of the build-up to the missile crisis until Kennedy addressed the nation on October 22, 1962, six days into the crisis. After that, events moved rapidly, and in a decidedly negative direction. At this point, the newspapers covered the crisis extensively until Kennedy once again addressed the nation on November 2, 1962 informing the public that the missiles would be removed from Cuba. The crisis was over. There would be no nuclear war. Needless to say, the nation and the world breathed a sigh of relief.

On a lighter note, the Cuban Missile Crisis is the jumping off point for the romantic comedy “Blast From the Past”  (1999) starring Brendan Frasier and Alicia Silverstone. On the night October 22, 1962, the Weber’s are giving a cocktail party when President Kennedy addresses the nation about the missiles in Cuba. Mr. Weber sends his guests home and takes his family down to the elaborate bomb shelter he’s built beneath their house. When an airplane crashes into their home, Weber believes the bomb has been dropped and his family lives in the shelter for 35 years. Fun ensues when Adam Weber, having grown to adulthood in the bomb shelter, ventures out into the world for supplies.

The Cuban Missile Crisis serves as a plot point in the 2011 “X-men, First Class” film. This film suggests that evil mutant Sebastian Shaw initiated the crisis to begin World War III. The United States then enlists Mutants to combat evil on a global scale. Not one of my favorites.

I often wonder why the Cuban Missile Crisis has been relegated to a few paragraphs in our history. Is it because of the short duration of the event? Is it because there was one fatality, US Air Force Major Rudolf Anderson, Jr. who was shot down over Cuba on October 26, 1962? Whatever the reasons may be, the example of cool logic established  by Kennedy, McNamara and others should not be relegated to a few dusty paragraphs. It is worthy or study and emulation, in my opinion.

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