05th Nov2021

’13 Minutes’ VOD Review

by Phil Wheat

Stars: Amy Smart, Thora Birch, Peter Facinelli, Anne Heche, Sofia Vassilieva, Paz Vega, Laura Spencer, Trace Adkins, Will Peltz, Yancey Arias, Shaylee Mansfield, Davi Santos, Tokala Black Elk | Written by Lindsay Gossling, Travis Farncombe | Directed by Lindsay Gossling

Disaster movies have been a staple of cinema for years – be they of the man made or natural variety – the latter of which are usually showcases for massively budgeted special effects that are oftentimes more the focus of the film than the people involved. On paper it would seem 13 Minutes is set to be more of the same. However this story, from co-writer and first-time director Lindsay Gossling, takes a different tack, approaching its story of a tornado hitting an unnamed town in Oklahoma from the human aspect – focussing on the townsfolk whose lives will be impacted in the titular 13 minutes it takes for people to get to safety before the tornado hits… and then following up their stories in the aftermath.

I have to say, given the marketing materials for 13 Minutes, that I was expecting your typical action-packed blockbuster, done on a budget, from this film; and that is certainly NOT what Gossling gives us. Instead she focusses her film on a handful of people in small town Oklahoma – their lives, their relationships, their conflicts, and their secrets. All of which are irrefutably changed in the fallout of the tornados impact; and boy are the lives of these people complicated!

Trace Adkins’ Rick runs a farm with his wife, Tammy, played by Anne Heche. Tammy also runs a pregnancy clinic, pushing a pro-life stance on young Maddy (Sofia Vassilieva) who’s found herself unexpectedly pregnant. Maddy sometimes babysits young Peyton (Shaylee Mansfield), a hearing-impaired girl who is the daughter of Kim (Amy Smart), a tornado emergency response manager and Brad (Peter Facinelli) a meteorologist who works for the local TV station. Meanwhile Rick and Tammy’s son Luke (Will Peltz) is having a relationship with Daniel (Davi Santos) who works works on the farm, all the while afraid to tell his God-fearing parents he’s gay. Working alongside Daniel on the farm is Carlos (Yancey Arias), an undocumented immigrant who’s in a relationship with hotel maid Ana (Paz Vega) who is buying a house for them to live in on her meagre hotel worker pay…

That only scratches the surface of the stories at play in 13 Minutes but given this is small-town America you can probably picture how complicated the relationships between all the townsfolk are.

However the fact this film focuses on the people of this fictional Oklahoma town, is not to say 13 Minutes doesn’t also have some tremendous scenes of destruction. In fact it probably has one of the greatest scenes in ANY tornado movie – and I don’t say that lightly – in which Peyton, aware that something is wrong thanks to the TV weather report (given by her meteorologist dad no less), steps outside to see what’s happening only to be standing in the path of one of the most vicious storms that the county has ever seen (well, according to her dad’s weather report) It’s a stunning visual that reminds the audience of just how small we humans are. In this case literally but also figuratively.

Yet despite how small and insignificant we might seem in a ginormous tornado, humans have strength of spirit and Gossling shows us that in the events after the destruction and devastation – as the townsfolk, well most of them, put aside their differences, abandon their prejudices and work together to help the sick and injured, to help those looking for their families and to just be there for each other. It’s a heavy moral message but one that feels like it’s coming from a good place – a place of respect for this first responders, those that have lived through disasters such as these. As clearly shown in the films final on-screen coda…

Whilst those looking for a traditional effects-filled natural disaster film, a la [probably] the most famous tornado movie Twister, will be disappointed; those looking for a story that focuses on people and how they deal with adversity (both caused by other people AND the forthcoming tornado) will find themselves pleasantly surprised. After all, aren’t most of the truly GREAT disaster movies really about that. People.

Signature Entertainment presents 13 Minutes on Digital Platforms 1st November and DVD on 17th January 2022.

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