13 Minutes, 2021.
Directed by Lindsay Gossling.
Starring Trace Adkins, Thora Birch, Peter Facinelli, Anne Heche, William Peltz, Amy Smart, Paz Vega, Yancey Arias, Tokala Black Elk, Davi Santos, Laura Spencer, Sofia Vassilieva, Allyson Cristofaro, Gabriel Jarret, James Austin Kerr, and Shaylee Mansfield.
Four families in a Heartland town are tested in a single day when a tornado hits, forcing paths to cross and redefining the meaning of survival.
There’s a tornado coming to the fictional small American town of Minninnewah. However, in lazy allegory fashion, 13 Minutes (courtesy of director Lindsay Gossling, scripting a story from herself and Travis Farncombe), the real storm is all the truths and drama bubbling to the surface for these residents. 13 Minutes attempts to provide social commentary on everything from abortion, homophobia, mother-daughter relationships, racism within interracial communities, and immigration to no satisfactory avail. The results are actually quite dismal; a frontloaded plot introducing characters for roughly 30 minutes and an emotionally lifeless 40-minute aftermath of the impending disaster.
That’s also a shame considering the film, for the most part, has noble intentions and a surprisingly stacked cast of well-known actors putting in decent work. Such characters are broken up into four families; a racist and bigoted farmer (Trace Adkins) unaware that his son (Will Peltz) is gay and dating one of the migrants they employ, 19-year-old (Sofia Vassilieva) learning that she is around two months pregnant struggling to decide what she wants to do with the baby while breaking things off with her older boyfriend (James Austin Kerr) unwilling to step up and be supportive if she does choose to raise the child, Amy Smart’s Kim as a storm analyzer of sorts looking into what can be done for this town to better face tornadoes with as little as 13 minutes to seek shelter, and Paz Vega’s Ana dating undocumented immigrant Carlos (Yancey Arias) pursuing the American dream looking into purchasing their first home.
Regarding mothers, Anne Heche’s religious nut Tammy is no more understanding regarding Luke’s coming out, whereas Jess (Thora Birch) is emotionally supportive when her daughter Maddie breaks the news of her pregnancy. If there is one storyline that receives more time than the others, it’s this one, and unsurprisingly so since it’s the most engaging of the bunch (which is not necessarily saying much). Following that heart-to-heart, Maddie jets to babysit the mute daughter of Kim. As the day goes on, it becomes more apparent that catastrophic destruction is coming their way, and to the film’s credit, this short burst of chaos is well shot. Characters still behave like unforgivable morons, and some of it makes no sense from a passage of time perspective, but there’s a brief moment of intensity and entertainment.
The same cannot be said for the immediate follow-up to the tornado, consisting of lengthy scenes of characters navigating the damage and trying to locate loved ones. Of course, some relationships are now broken more than ever (it’s certainly a choice to have the arrival of the tornado itself triggered by Luke coming out to his father). Bodies are severely injured, and lives are forever changed. It’s clear that the filmmakers are trying to show how community problems can bring out compassion in individuals, yet everything here rings hollow. None of it means anything because 13 Minutes rarely sees its characters as characters but rather vessels for thematic exploration. Considering the narrative is also overstuffed with characters and well, the result is a different kind of storm. No one necessarily gives a lousy performance, but 13 Minutes is a significant waste of 108 minutes.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Critics Choice Association. He is also the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com