If there is one overriding theme director Michael Bay wants you to take away from 13 hours it is that the military is good, and bureaucrats are bad.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, directed by Michael Bay and starring John Krasinski, and James Dale, is the story of 6 contracted CIA ex-special forces operatives during the 2012 Benghazi attack on both an American Diplomatic and CIA compound. The movie explains how the men tried to save the American Ambassador and then defend their compound throughout the night of the attacks. 13 hours has gripping action showcased throughout the entire film.
The action sequences are intense and I was on the edge of my seat each time the tension was ratcheted up. Bay can direct action, and for the most part you could always follow what was going in each action scene. There was some shaky cam sequences, which I personally don’t care for, but they didn’t take too much away from the movie. Each time the action did pick up you never truly felt like you knew what was going to happen or who was going to survive. Bay did a great job of capturing the confusion and fluidness of what it must have been like during the attacks.
The performances for the most part are well done. John Krasinski, of The Office fame, is good in the role. I don’t know if I buy him as an ex-navy seal, but I did buy into him being a father who deeply cared about getting back to his family. James Dale plays the commander of the group and does a good job as well. His family story was a little contrived to me and seemed forced into the movie. The same with the other backstories of the other solders. I know each truly had a backstory and family, they just didn’t fit well into the framework of the movie. Each of their family scenes is introduced right before the action starts, and it just screamed, CARE ABOUT ME PLEASE!
Then we have the CIA section chief of the compound Bob, played by David Costabile. He is complete one note bureaucratic non-understanding boss, who won’t let the soldiers just do their jobs. Are their people like this in the world, yes there are, but not to this degree. I would prefer to have more nuance from a role like this, rather than someone for the audience to just hate. He does have one good sequence during the middle of the movie, which I hoped was going to showcase a redemption for the character, but he ends in the same place he began. I really did not like the last two scenes he had in the movie. This being said I’m going to try and stay away from the political message the movie is trying to hammer home and just focus on the characters and their actions in the film.
The action, again, is amazing in the movie. It does get tedious by the end though. As an audience you are exhausted after watching every scene of action. This may have been the point to showcase just how tough these individuals truly are. The movie is two hours and twenty four minutes and it seemed to drag in places as well. Twenty to thirty minutes of the movie could have been cut out and trimmed down to pick up the pace a bit. There are scenes in-between the action which are good character development, and I liked. Then there are cut scenes back to Washington and briefing rooms that are not needed. They don’t add to the story being told and nothing is followed up on during the course of the film. We at one point see fighters getting prepped and army personal on a plane, but after one shot they are never shown again. There was no reason to put it in the movie if the narrative doesn’t go anywhere.
Confusion is both a blessing and a curse of the movie. Bay does a good job of confronting the confusion of what is happening on the ground and how it is affecting the soldiers. They don’t know who they can trust locally to either help them or kill them. This same confusion is applied to the overall government and military. This is probably an accurate assessment of what was going on during the course of the events, but it isn’t needed for this story. It sidetracks and pulls you out of what the main focus of the movie should be; what was in fact happening to the people on the ground in Benghazi. A few cutaways of when the CIA compound called for help would have been enough to show how confused the overall government was at the time. There was too much shifting of focus in the last part of the movie, and it lost some of its overall impact
I still enjoyed watching this movie, but I think depending on where you fall on the political spectrum might affect your overall enjoyment. I would say this movie is Worth Seeing. If you lean to the left politically go see it in theaters at a matinee price, or wait to rent. Still worth watching though. If you lean to the right politically I don’t think you’ll be disappointed in paying full price to see it in theaters. Just my personal perception though.
Are you planning on seeing 13 Hours this weekend? If you have seen it let me know what you thought. Let me know your favorite and least favorite Michael Bay films.