Thanks To Paramount Pictures we had the chance to see ‘13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi‘ before its national release. This is our review of the movie, but as usual, no matter what we say, we still recommend you to go and see it at your local cinema because there is no better critic than yourself!
On the 11th of September 2012 a U.S. military compound in Libya was attacked by Islamic terrorists. During the attacks four Americans lost their lives. A security detail consisting of six heavily-trained soldiers effectively fought off the terrorist through the night. The story of this tense assault in the Middle East has now been adapted for the big screen. Not by a renowned thriller director like Kathryn Bigelow or Paul Greengrass, but by none other than Michael Bay. Fresh off his fourth Transformers film, Hollywood’s main man for movies stuffed with explosions and gunfire has gotten the idea into his head that he can deliver his version of ‘The Hurt Locker’ or ‘Zero Dark Thirty‘. And admittedly, for the first forty minutes it actually works.
We follow security specialist Jack Silva (John Krasinski) as he arrives in Benghazi. In the not so subtle world of Michael Bay, the CIA detail over there consist of a bunch of overpaid useless ideological desk clerks, and it’s purely thanks to their tough-as-nails level-headed security guards that everyone is still alive. Still Bay manages to capture the mood surprisingly well with a few suspenseful scenes set in the streets of Benghazi that successfully convey the idea of a constant present threat.
Once the actual siege begins however, the movie erupts into a big surrealistic violent fever dream of gunfire and things going boom; where chaotic editing makes it impossible to tell who is shooting whom; or where any of the action is taking place. This deafening mind-numbing sequence continues for a whopping 80 minutes, where it easily could have been done in less than 40.
Along the line some interesting plot points only pop up in throwaway lines; we find out the untrained local militias who are on the side of the U.S. are only in it to drive fancy SUV’s, and that they actually have the phone numbers of the terrorist leaders they are fighting. Everyone is corrupt, no one can be trusted, but these ingredients for a tense thriller are tossed to the side for more big dudes shouting while emptying their machine guns on faceless extras.
John Krasinski is not too bad in the lead role, especially considering he’s mainly famous for his rather dorky role as Jim from The Office US. However in the Krasinski-household he is way over-classed when it comes to action movies; last year Krasinski’s wife Emily Blunt starred in the terrific ‘Sicario‘, an actual tense action thriller that shows how fantastic this genre can be if executed well. Admittedly ‘13 Hours‘ is still arguably Bay’s best action flick since 2004’s ‘The Island’, but that’s saying more about his Transformers movies than it does about this attempt at a political action thriller.
Although this film itself has no political statements, the fact that it has been made seems a statement in itself. After all, when the news of the Benghazi attacks broke, conservative American politicians tried to blame Hillary Clinton. She was secretary of state at the time and the attack on the insufficiently secured compounds happened under her watch (Ironically these same republicans trying to blame Clinton for four lost lives conveniently forget how George W. Bush sent thousands of soldiers to their deaths starting a war based on lies, but that’s a different story). The subject of the Benghazi attacks got hijacked by Republicans, using it for smear campaigns during election time. This may explain why no serious filmmaker has made a movie about this delicate subject. Which is a shame, as there is a captivating story here that could have made for a great film – if it would have been directed by anyone but Michael Bay.