Starring John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Toby Stephens, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Max Martini
“Zero Dark Thirty” was not an action film, yet a calculated and methodical exploration in military investigation that allowed the viewer to understand unequivocally the events that led to the extermination of Osama bin Laden. Michael Bay’s “13 Hours” is no “Zero Dark Thirty” that’s for sure. Bay typically takes a break between each “Transformers” film to offer up an action packed true story might have tapped into this one a bit too early. While the events of Benghazi are certainly still in the news and continue to play out in hearings, Bay’s film focuses on the unsung, secret heroes of that fatal day in Libya. “13 Hours” might not have good writers to develop thorough characters that turn into action stars during the midway mark, but what the film does have is a good sense of the chaos that surrounded the entire operation and the dysfunction between government agencies, if we are to believe everything Bay shows us.
“You’re not the CIA. You’re hired help,” The Chief (David Costabile) says to Rone (Dale) as he escorts the newest member of the team to the secret base. Jack (Krasinski) has just joined Global Response Staff (GRS), a section of the CIA that is all but invisible. The secret CIA base in Benghazi is about a mile from the US Ambassador’s residence, but the GRS are not assigned to protect that facility, only to keep the CIA employees inside the compound safe. On September 11th, 2012 Ambassador’s Chris Stevens and his two bodyguards came under attack by Islamic militants, the closest aid only one mile away was prohibited by protocol from assisting until they violated their secret oath and stormed in.
Over two hours in running time, but most of that is spent on action sequences that are as bloody and grotesque as anything you are likely to see on screen in 2016
Screenwriter Chuck Hogan doesn’t make much sense of the events occurring in Benghazi, his script does little to create real people on screen beyond the audience just recognizing their bravery as American Soldiers. Sure there are cutaways of the men talking to their families on i-Pad’s and even a few scenes where Jack’s wife appears on screen, beyond that we know little to nothing about them. “13 Hours” might be over two hours in running time, but most of that is spent on action sequences that are as bloody and grotesque as anything you are likely to see on screen in 2016. Michael Bay understands the hunger from ticket buyers for more films like “American Sniper” and “Lone Survivor” and delivers a film in the same vein.
I found the disorganization contained within the film fascinating, how the most powerful country in the world, apparently failed not only the US Embassy in Benghazi but their own men. That element separates “13 Hours” from the “hoorah” military films where the American Flag flies high, instead Bay shows the flag being burned and finally discarded underwater. The chaos of the 13 hour long mission where a handful of guys on rooftops protected American Citizens is perfectly illustrated on screen. It’s as difficult for the audience to understand who is friendly as it is the characters on screen. The audience is only clued into a major moment by the slowing of time before a bullet or bomb explodes in one of the heroes face. Bay can make any movie he wants, “Transformers 5” is on the way, yet despite its flaws and difficulty to watch, “13 Hours” recreates what I can only imagine are the modern day horrors of war.
Michael Bay lets chaos take control in the intense true story of Benghazi.