13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is an immersive but politically motivated action flick that reduces a complex issue into an overlong standoff and exploits the heroics of its characters for Micheal Bay’s jingoistic fetish.
An American Ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya as a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.
13 Hours, like the rest of the Transformers movies, features the best and worst of what Micheal Bay can do. It’s an indictment of his reductive worldview and a testament to his capabilities as an action movie director.
This movie adaptation of a true to life story offers bombastic action. In fairness, it was able to provide a clear picture of what happened that night. The camerawork, which would remind regular moviegoers of Micheal Mann’s work, is able to capture the brutality of the confrontation. It’s chaotic, immersive, and unlike the jumbled action sequences of Transformers, you know who’s shooting whom.
The cast adds a human touch to the proceedings. John Krasinski beefs up and grows a full beard, but he doesn’t quite register the rough and tumble quality of a contractor. The men of 13 hours are not soldiers, they are hired guns. Nonetheless, he’s decent as a committed yet conflicted family man who has a job to do. The rest of the cast does well, even though the movie treats them as nothing more than cardboard figures in an overlong combat reel.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldier’s of Benghazi is simply just that – an overlong combat reel that reduces a complex issue into one long standoff and the men who it supposedly exalts as toy soldiers to fulfill Bay’s penchant for jingoistic fetishism.
Here we have the same old story of manly men held back by annoying pencil pushers and ivy league educated wussies. There’s a shot of some dude in the background in short shorts exercising while the said pencil pusher lectures another grunt to prove it.
Certain details are pointed out for authenticity (poor security, lack of manpower, and a secret CIA compound that isn’t so secret) but the movie glosses over the complexities of the issue. And then the rest of the plot kicks into gear with relentless action as the American men finally get rid of enemies. We’re not entirely sure what they’re motivations are but they’re bad people.
There are scenes here that attempt to humanize story, but they’re used as nothing more than cliched fillers, such as the dude who likes to read and coins the spiritual statement of the movie and the guy who finds out he has a baby on the way while his family is at the drive thru in McDonalds. The body count clocks in at some point, but the heroes here are indistinguishable from one another. While the handheld camerawork gives it a documentary look and feel that also justifies the chaos they went through, Micheal Bay can’t help but plaster it with the blockbuster treatment just like Pearl Harbor, which makes his motivations look disingenuous.
It can be argued that this is a Micheal Bay film, so there’s nothing much to expect. But it can also be said that this is supposed to be based on a true to life story. While the movie would like to tell you that this is about American heroism, key details paint it as a politically motivated film. And the heroism in display here is questionable as the movie is more preoccupied with showing American muscle and firepower, using low angle shots to make its soldiers-for-hire bigger and portraying Libyan allies as useless and/or amateurs.
In the end, you get what you always do from Micheal Bay. 13 hours is not his attempt at something serious, its Bay showcasing his personal stamp on a serious issue – deliver an action packed film for American males aged 18-34; everything else be damned.
My Rating: 4/10