Invasion and/or tactical bombing would have almost certainly led to immediate retaliation by the Soviet Union. If not directly against the United States, then against West Berlin or any of a dozen other hot spots.
Sinking a Soviet ship would have led to at least tit-for-tat retaliation, which would have led to escalation.
Either one of those scenarios would have led to the use of nuclear weapons, so I don’t think terms like “cowardice” or appeasement make a lot of sense.
I was 10 years old during the Cuban crisis, and I remember Kennedy’s TV speeches and Stevenson’s appearance at the U.N. But what I most vividly remember is my father, who was on a business trip that week. He had been in Arkansas, and had seen ICBM sites that were fully activated, and troop convoys headed for the Gulf Coast. He was a World War II vet and was absolutely scared shitless that we were going to end up vaporized.
To me, that period is a little too personal to describe as “all the stuff that makes a movie good.”