Thirteen Days 2000 ***

thirteen days

Kevin Costner’s return to the Kennedy ethos didn’t make the same cultural impact as Oliver Stone’s JFK; nonetheless, Roger Donaldson’s evocation of White House drama during the Cuban missile crisis is one of cinema’s more reflective history lessons. The strangely accented Kenny O’Donnell (Costner) is caught up in the angst as JFK Bruce Greenwood) and RFK (Steven Culp) ague about the best course of action to take, with the future of the world at stake. Thirteen Days has a couple of well-stages action scenes involving U2 spy-planes, but it’s all the stronger for being a claustrophobic talkfest; it was diplomacy that resolves the Cold war issues, and Thirteen Days is a respectful and conscientious look at one of the most startling chapters of world history.

Exotica 1994 ****


The title Exotica has a double meaning; not only does writer/director Atom Egoyan focus on the exotic dancers of the Exotica nightclub on the outskirts of Toronto, but the pet-shop run by Thomas (Don McKeller) is funded through the illegal import of bird’s eggs. This playfulness is part of the ingenious notion of Egoyan’s thriller. He intercuts a developing triangle of unrequited lust, as auditor (Bruce Greenwood) enjoys nightly dances from Christina (Mia Kirschner) under the watchful eye of club DJ Eric (Elias Koteas), with a search for a missing girl’s body. Whether this search happens before or after the club tensions is initially unclear, but that’s part of Egoyan’s game; he misdirects the audience brilliantly into expecting a different story to the one he delivers. Greenwood is excellent as a father with a dark past, and there’s a telling role from Sarah Polley as his niece.  Exotica is a brilliant low-budget noir, moody and provocative, but humane in its message.

The Sweet Hereafter 1997 ***


Armenian director Atom Egoyan’s output is patchy; his best work, like Exotica, is dense and brilliant, but his willingness to look at the darker side of work has kept him well away from the mainstream. His 1997 adaptation of Russell Banks novel  is a sober, sobering drama about a small town where a generation of schoolchildren have died in a bus accident. Into the town comes Mitchell Stevens (Ian Holm), an insurance investigator who has troubles of his own; he saved his own daughter years previously, but has become detached and removed from her. Stevens begins to work his way through the accounts of the grieving parents, and Egoyan skilfully uses flashbacks to skip back and forward to the town pore-accident and the aftermath. The use of Robert Browning’s poem about the Pied Piper is one of the few obvious clues to Egoyan’s intent; The Sweet Hereafter is a haunting lament for lost innocence. Bruce Greenwood and Sarah Polley are amongst the supporting cast.