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Review: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
01.14.2016
7 10
 

PLOT: The true story of a security team of six American security contractors in Benghazi who fought to defend an American diplomatic compound against a terrorist attack on September 11th, 2012.

REVIEW: 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI benefits tremendously from director Michael Bay working with a budget that's only a fraction of what he'd spend on a TRANSFORMERS movie. A passion project for Bay, this is most disciplined film in years and a throwback to his nineties-era work. Even if some of his excesses are still present, this is a well-crafted effort.  Despite the subject matter, politics are mostly avoided to deliver an exciting, fact-based action yarn.

While still running an epic 144 minutes, this is a pretty streamlined film. It's far closer to Bay's THE ROCK than it is to anything he's made in the last fifteen years. After the first act, which establishes our heroes and gives context to the situation in Benghazi, the rest of the film is focused solely on the thirteen-hour siege. Of course, this is expertly staged by Bay, who – it could never be doubted – knows his way around an action sequence.

In many ways, 13 HOURS is superior to the more ambitious AMERICAN SNIPER. Here, the events speak for themselves without going too much into the politics of the situation. The closest they ever get to making any kind of statement is the brash way David Costabile's CIA bureau chief and some of his operatives are portrayed. They treat the six contractors as brainless meatheads, only to depend on them for their lives when the carnage starts. There's also some frustration expressed at the fact that the men weren't allowed to act sooner, although this is at least given a bit of context. For the most part, this is a straightforward action-adventure and as such should be palatable to a relatively broad audience.

The atypical action cast is very good. John Krasinski is wholly convincing in action hero mode, with a pumped-up physique and a real sense of intensity. This is well illustrated by a tense showdown early-on where, only moments after landing in Libya, he finds himself in a armed standoff. James Badge Dale, who's stolen scenes in movies like THE LONE RANGER, finally gets to prove himself as a full-on lead, with him the veteran chief of the security detail. The part fits him well, thanks in no small part to his similarly beefed-up physique, a shocking transformation for the usually slim actor.

While always entertaining, 13 HOURS does have a few problems. The biggest is that other than Krasinski and Dale, the other four members of the team take a backseat to all the carnage and are limited to only a few character defining moments each. Krasinski is also absent for a large stretch of the film in the mid-section which undercuts his position as the lead and keeps us from investing too heavily in his character. As usual for a Bay film, there's also a little too much corny, frat-boy humour early-on that could have been cut-down given the hefty running time. Still, there are some moments that work, with Chuck Hogan (of THE TOWN) contributing a solid script based on Mitchell Zuckoff's nonfiction account of the siege. One bit I appreciated was when Krasinski's character panics over almost losing a contact lens before going in to battle. That's the kind of everyday detail we don't get enough of in movies like this (imagine fighting half-blind thanks to something so innocuous?).

While Bay's critics will find a myriad of reasons why not to like 13 HOURS, it's actually a solid military action film. While it's not up there with classics of the genre, it's an entertaining, testosterone-fueled ride. One thing's for sure, it proves that Bay's a far more interesting director when his resources are limited than he is directing massive franchise films.

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Source: JoBlo.com

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5:08PM on 01/19/2016

SEE IT!

Ive been a staunch defender of michael bay for a long time. Great director of bad films. This is a major exception as is it a great movie. 8.5/10
Ive been a staunch defender of michael bay for a long time. Great director of bad films. This is a major exception as is it a great movie. 8.5/10
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12:00AM on 01/15/2016
Glad to hear this is good. The trailer had me sold on it. I've always liked John Krasinski from the days of The Office. Cool to see he's doing some serious action stuff!
Glad to hear this is good. The trailer had me sold on it. I've always liked John Krasinski from the days of The Office. Cool to see he's doing some serious action stuff!
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10:54AM on 01/14/2016

Glad he avoided political commentary

It would have just given people a reason to slag the film without bothering to see it. Besides, the story is told from the ex-soldiers POV because that's the only POV they have. Anything that referenced what was going on in Washington or with the CIA's possible dirty dealings would have been just speculation, which undercuts the fact that this is supposed to be a true story told to us by the guys who were there.

Glad to see Chris give it a solid review. He's my go to guy on these films,
It would have just given people a reason to slag the film without bothering to see it. Besides, the story is told from the ex-soldiers POV because that's the only POV they have. Anything that referenced what was going on in Washington or with the CIA's possible dirty dealings would have been just speculation, which undercuts the fact that this is supposed to be a true story told to us by the guys who were there.

Glad to see Chris give it a solid review. He's my go to guy on these films, so I know I can trust it will be entertaining and never exploitive.

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9:35AM on 01/14/2016
Glad to see this is getting a positive review. It looked like a decent action movie to check out. But Bay has been on a slippery slope with his dedication to Transformers. Glad to see he's still got it when given the right story.
Glad to see this is getting a positive review. It looked like a decent action movie to check out. But Bay has been on a slippery slope with his dedication to Transformers. Glad to see he's still got it when given the right story.
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7:42AM on 01/14/2016
Excited as hell for this and love the cast they have to represent each one of the soldiers. Especially Krasinski and Dale as the two leads.
Excited as hell for this and love the cast they have to represent each one of the soldiers. Especially Krasinski and Dale as the two leads.
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7:38AM on 01/14/2016
The Rock. I like that Bay movie the most. I hope it's as good as The Rock.
The Rock. I like that Bay movie the most. I hope it's as good as The Rock.
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5:54AM on 01/14/2016
I was always curious ab Krasinksi as Cap
I was always curious ab Krasinksi as Cap
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3:25AM on 01/14/2016

Michael Bay is the best !

Michael Bay is the best !
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4:05AM on 01/14/2016
*saying this via Michael Bay voice like his Verizon Ad* Bingo - then press the button to Explode!
*saying this via Michael Bay voice like his Verizon Ad* Bingo - then press the button to Explode!
7:53AM on 01/14/2016
thanks a lot, I just checked that Verizon commercial and it was... AWESOME...
thanks a lot, I just checked that Verizon commercial and it was... AWESOME...
8:48AM on 01/14/2016
Haha, you're welcome, man. I really love that ad.
Haha, you're welcome, man. I really love that ad.
3:09AM on 01/14/2016
Heck, it's a Michael Bay movie. I expect loads of action scenes, not Oscar material, so 7/10 is fine by me.
Heck, it's a Michael Bay movie. I expect loads of action scenes, not Oscar material, so 7/10 is fine by me.
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