Two things you need to know before going into this movie: 1) the movie has no comment as to who is at fault for the Benghazi attacks on September 11, 2012 but has a slightly different political message; and 2) this is a 144-minute bullet fiesta. If these two points intrigue you, read on friends as we venture into the chaos that is Michael Bay’s mind.
We’re in the company of Jack Da Silva (played by The Office’s John Kransinski), a former Marine turned private security mercenary, as he arrives in Benghazi to serve part of a six-man security detail for the CIA’s outpost in Benghazi, Libya just after Muammar Gaddafi had been killed. Following his close friend, Tyrone “Rone” Woods (a minor actor named James Badge Dale) as chief of said detail, you follow the pair as they carry out CIA grunt work to secure Gaddafi’s arsenal before it seeps into the black market. All plans are thrown out the window however, when the US Ambassador to Libya is attacked in his home leaving several other security members stranded. Thus begins a shootout over a one mile stretch of land as the aforementioned mercs hold out for an extraction.
If you’ve been paying attention to the news for say, the past few years, you may notice the word “Benghazi” elicits a variety of emotions from people: sadness, anger, confusion, incredulity, paranoia, and so on. Michael Bay opted to tell a story about the confusion of the entire catastrophe by focusing on six guys who were right there in the thick of it. So the movie eschews a bird’s eye perspective of that horrid day’s ordeals and instead lets you experience what each person on the ground floor was thinking as they tried to piece together what the hell was happening.
This may come as a disappointment to people on the Left (Berners) and the Right who were looking for their long sought after “smoking gun” pointing to Hillary Clinton as some callous conspirator entirely to blame for the deaths of innocent American lives. So do ignore what those babblers on Fox News and Breitbart say that this is some grand “condemnation” on Clinton, for it is nothing of the sort (and while you’re at it, tell them to FUCK off my turf).
That being the case, Michael Bay isn’t exactly a subtle director. If he wants to make a point about something, he’ll straight up tell you to your face rather than dance around the topic for two and a half hours. The film itself does have a political message to it, but it’s likely one that few are going to like. Bay is of the persuasion we should stay far the hell away from messed up places in the Middle East because shit is way too real and way too messy for anyone to figure it out.
This theme plays out across several scenes but notably in one memorable sequence where the security team awaits for their next move on the Ambassador’s grounds and they find themselves surrounded by people with guns. Worse, they can’t tell who among them is a guy itching to kill Americans, a member of the militia on the Americans’ side, or just some random yokel. That’s correct, you literally have people in fine shirts wandering around the compound strutting their AK-47’s for the sole reason there didn’t seem to be anything else to that night.
That’s not a dig the film. This happens over and over again. The soldiers express bewilderment as they notice Libyans casually watching soccer games or herding sheep in between firefights. This wasn’t exactly hell, more like a military man’s version of Wonderland.
Still the firefights themselves are the real stars of the show despite the cast on display. Michael Bay, love him or hate him, is still one of the finest technical directors working in show business today as he deftly places you square in the middle of jamboree composed entirely of gunshots. He even throws a car chase in there for good measure (which I strongly doubt was part of the real life story).
Of course, this being a Bay film, it’s not enough for him to have a mere car. Nope, he wanted his heroes to be chased in a souped up, bulletproof Mercedes Benz (stolen from Gaddafi ‘natch). Well, he certainly couldn’t fit a supermodel into this movie, but he can still fit in the other object of his lustful eye.
Speaking of which, Bay initially seems like the kind of guy who loves soldiers, but it really comes across like a fetish for military hardware. Because while you certainly get tons of interesting scenes on all the weapons in the security detail’s arsenal, the actual soldiers themselves are given barely anything to do.
What the six leads do in fact engage is trade in pure cliche: one guy is THIS close to retirement, another guy says THIS will be his last job, another guy talks about his family back home. The dialogue itself feels very copy-pasted from other better war films, most notably Black Hawk Down (which itself gets name checked a few times throughout the ordeal). What’s more the interactions between soldiers comes across as forced rather than the camaraderie you actually got from better war films like Black Hawk Down, Saving Private Ryan, and others.
The performances themselves don’t really do anything for me either. Really, only Dale came across as the most charismatic of the bunch, while Krasinski very clearly demonstrated that he’s just not that good of an actor (yes, yes, I know you all love Jim from The Office, but I challenge you to name me a single movie he’s made where he was the main attraction). The other four members of the security detail are all kind of interchangeable honestly. You do get a bit of Bay’s penchant for “soldiers rule, bureaucrats drool”that’s he been banging on about since The Rock, when you see “Harvard and Yale-educated” CIA agents dismiss the more experienced soldiers’ suggestions.
Aside from the great action sequences, there really isn’t much else to recommend for 13 Hours. The dialogue isn’t punchy at all, the score was bought on the cheap, and there’s really no courting of controversy no matter what the film says when it swears “THIS IS A TRUE STORY” (skipping right past based and went on to straight up Gospel truth).
Regardless if the events depicted in this movie transpired the way the security detail claimed they happened, I have no interest in the facts alone. What I care about is the movie in front of me. And the movie in front of me, was a genuinely good action flick. Doesn’t attain greatness, but there’s still quite a bit to dig about it. This gets from me a low…
8 thoughts on “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Review”
“He even throws a car chase in there for good measure (which I strongly doubt was part of the real life story).”
Not exactly. I’ve read the novel this is based on, and the car chase, well, wasn’t a chase. In reality (according to the book), the car turned down a block and went full speed as it started taking fire from both sides of the street. Ak-47s, molotov cocktails, RPGs, all just continually blasting on/around them left and right for a couple of blocks before they make it back to the compound with the car all messed up.
Other than that, and a couple other scenes, most of the film stayed very close to the source material.
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Figured as much, but the scene turned out to be one of my most memorable of 2016, really dug the action in this movie despite its issues
Was fun to see that one guy get run over by 3 different vehicles.
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