13 Minutes takes place in a small Oklahoma town called Minninnewah, home to untimely weather events, but also a smorgasbord of extremely in-depth families that have very large individual issues. Former films of the same genre, The Perfect Storm (2000) and Pompeii (2014), place emphasis on the titular characters either bracing for the impact of impending doom, or how a relationship can blossom in the events of tragedy. The doom eventually hitting home makes the preparation of catastrophe or the meaning of the relationships seem very small. 13 Minutes breaks the mould in this regard.
13 Minutes starts up slightly confusingly, jumping from relationships between the ensemble cast of the film, who each perform their job amicably. Before disaster strikes, conflict between the characters of the film hits with very real scenarios.
We meet a family of Tammy (Heche), Rick (Adkins), and Luke (Peltz) who are trying to keep their farm from bankruptcy. Tammy is an OB-GYN sonographer, and she comes from a very Christian household. Her beliefs are forced upon her patients when she attempts to convince them to have babies instead of having an abortion.
Maddy (Vassilieva) comes in, as a teenager recently pregnant by an adulterous Eric who attempts to persuade her from keeping the pregnancy. Her single mom, Jess (Birch) gives her intense insight as a good mother, and not as someone pressing her own agenda. To showcase more social issues, Luke is also coming to grips with his own identity, and he’s afraid to reveal his sexuality to his very religious parents. His fear is well-placed due to the rejection he faces when he reveals himself.
“13 Minutes starts up slightly confusingly, jumping from relationships between the ensemble cast of the film, who each perform their job amicably.”
All these issues together are approached with a very realistic and emotional touch. The actors do well in portraying these very real scenarios also… but 13 Minutes hasn’t gotten to the tragedy yet. There are clever signs that point to the destructive tornado placed throughout, such as the billboard that has your resident Weatherman Brad (Facinelli) claiming ‘Weather you can trust’ and his voice coming from all the town’s radios warning everyone.
His warnings and the billboard are ironic due to his realization later in the film, where his advice to not stay under overpasses tends to literally fail when most of the residents survived. His wife, Kim (Smart) is a disaster control centre leader, and they have a deaf daughter, Peyton (Mansfield), who can’t react soon enough when the disaster strikes. The casting of Mansfield here is natural, as she is hearing impaired off-screen.
The film still has not finished introducing all the characters, nor showcasing all the issues they face during the film. There are issues of financial stability based on a relationship between Ana (Vega) and Carlos (Arias), due to his inability to find a job in his field because of his status as a citizen, and other real issues approached in passing manners, such as sexual harassment in the workplace, or underhanded racism.
“The actors do well in portraying these very real scenarios also… but 13 Minutes hasn’t gotten to the tragedy yet.”
The title is based on the short timeframe the characters must react to the disaster, 13 Minutes. The showcasing of all these issues and the destruction the tornado causes to the town with the disastrous aftermath, makes the movie a little closer to a salad than a streamlined narrative. Each one of these issues is confronted boldly with very real scenarios, and although they’re strained, the tornado quells most of the issues that happen. Luke finds himself; the racist-seeming workplace manager who ends up helping, and Maddy refuses to be gas-lit, which makes seeing these relationships through all the more worth it in the end.
However, the film takes a whole hour to get to the premise, which is the 13 Minutes of time to react to the disaster. Each one of these social conundrums could have their own episode in a series, maybe titled ‘Real Problems During a More Severe Problem’ or something of that nature. The film explores these issues with a flourish, but there is just way too much to get to while shortening the devastation of the tornado and the speedy aftermath segment. This leaves some open ends, or unsatisfying ends for the characters.
13 Minutes is a good film about social issue confrontation, that tackles many–MANY–of the symptoms that plague society today, but seeing as how it is about a disaster AND social issues, both don’t correlate very well in the end. There are scenes of people being selfish which are never truly finished, and fans of disaster films will be left wanting in the end. Fans of true social commentary will also be left wanting more, as the climax of each relationship is sped up due to the salad-like nature of the film. Just throwing things into the film makes it more convoluted and weightier instead of giving the audience a satisfying end.