Michael Bay brings us a war film that tips the scale towards action rather than story.
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is a film based on the true events of a terrorist attack on an American diplomatic compound and CIA compound on September 11, 2012. Director Michael Bay (“Transformers”) attempts to represent this truth through his film adaptation of a book titled “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi” by Mitchell Zuckoff. This book gathers its information from 5 CIA contractors who protected the compound and lived through the fight in Benghazi.
Controversy is already beginning to circulate surrounding this film, mostly because of its release during an election year and the truth behind the source material. While many of the facts check out, some are arguing that some of the events in the film may be subjective and one-sided being told from the contractors’ perspective.
Outside of the debate of fact or fiction, many want to know how Michael Bay handled the film. So let’s see how the film stacked up.
Cinematics (Cinematography, Acting, Etc.) – 3
One thing that Michael Bay knows well when it comes to action sequences is visuals. Sure he’s got his signature slow motion, sunrise/sunset landscape camera pan, but it works by letting audiences visually take in the severity of the scene. It’s worked for films like “The Rock,” “Bad Boys,” and “Pearl Harbor” and it’s no different with “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” Every gun fight, explosion, and car chase are captured in full frame glory that puts you right in the midst of the action.
On the flip side to this approach, more focus on action shots means less focus on the story. The background of the events are briefly touched on throughout the film. You get a textual introduction in the beginning and a recap at the end, then a few bits of political related dialogue throughout. This is probably due to the film’s focus being on the CIA contractors but there is a lapse in their story as well. We see bits and pieces of family interaction and familiarity in the group but not enough to establish a strong base for character development. This is an action film first and foremost, it’s not “Zero Dark Thirty.” If you’re looking to unravel the mysteries of government involvement in Benghazi, you won’t get it here. But if you’re looking for a visual recount of the events, then Michael Bay is your man.
Finally, when it comes to the acting chops of the cast, it would be unfair to rate them as more than adequate. This is not as a result of their performance but more a result of the minimal amount of character development as I mentioned above. Pablo Schreiber has the most lavish performance of the group due to his loud and charismatic moments of comic relief. Just like his role on “Orange is the New Black,” his personality stands out among the group. The film’s star, John Krasinski, gives a good performance but I still find difficulty accepting him as a soldier. He’s too much of a romanticized actor and I don’t mean that from a perspective of movie genre. His strengths lie in his on screen relationships. When he interacts with his family or fellow soldiers through emotional dialogue he excels, but then carries a bit of that emotional weight into the battle whereas the other actors go into “fight mode.” As for the rest of the actors, overall they seem to be overshadowed by the events that ensue. When they do have their screen time, they do well, just not great.
Overall “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is a visually appealing film with a vividly realistic depiction of war. The character development and background story are minimal and in turn affect the potential for some great performances. But if you’re looking for a purely visual representation of the events in Benghazi, then Michael Bay will please you on that level.
Entertainment Value – 3.5
Michael Bay has proven that he is a director with an entertainment-centric intent for his films. “13 Hours” does not disappoint for the most part in this arena. The action is consistent, the shots are fluid, and the engagement level is solid. My only critique would be that some of the action sequences and gun fights can become repetitive. Repetition is probably a more accurate portrayal of the events based on the facts, but as a standalone film, a bit of variety in the sequences would have been welcomed.
But if you enjoy these moments, then the repetition may not bother you as much. It is a very entertaining and exciting film to watch.
Re-Watchability – 3
The main drawback on re-watchabilty would be the film’s runtime and, as mentioned under Entertainment Value, the repetition of action sequences. I would be interested in seeing this film again but probably wouldn’t be able to sit through the 144 minute runtime for a third viewing.
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is engaging and fun but multiple repeat viewings would be a bit of a strain.
Michael Bay takes us on a action-intensive journey based on true events in "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi." There are many "Bayisms" that you would expect throughout but he does manage to make a nice film that visually depicts the brutality of war.