Review: 13 Hours (2016)

secret soldiers of benghazi 13 hours.jpg

Directed By: Michael Bay
Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Max Martini, David Costabile, Pablo Schrieber

What happens when you take the director of Transformers and throw in an international diplomatic and military disaster that made headlines worldwide? Well it’s been described as the film no one wanted, but Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is precisely what you would expect – over two hours of overdramatic storytelling about bravery against all odds.

Centering around the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Libya, which resulted in the death of the ambassador and three others, Bay constructs the tale of victory and American bravery that one would expect from a propaganda film.

Admittedly it’s somewhat subtler than his past film Pearl Harbour, yet it doesn’t hesitate to throw veiled criticisms at the government and applaud those who protect the nation valiantly. In fact the government is depicted here as nuisances and trapped by red tape, whereas the contractor security guards are heroic in their refusal to listen to higher powers and go off on their own.

John Krasinski plays one of the armed forces contractors in perhaps one of his weakest roles yet. The dialogue is stale and the underlying sentiment makes the film seems like it’s main intention is to be as American as apple pie.

Indeed the scenes Krasinski appears in solely, specifically the family ones, are solidly performed and one can feel as if he is trying to break through the threshold of the stifled direction and script. He comes across as deadpan and emotionless, trying too hard to depict these soldiers as serious, cynical and frustrated at the situation they are in. Frustratingly all the other actors in the piece are one-dimensional and add very little to the story.

Naturally, the action scenes in the film are it’s strongest point, with Bay gaining indispensible experience through Armageddon and the Transformers series. The analysis of overseas diplomacy and struggles of military intervention are thrown aside for war pornography – car chases, bazookas, mortars and gunshots.

There are some critiques of the convoluted way that the American military is organised and how the military should not intervene in locations that have little to do with them, but much of the film revolves around the action and macho nature of the men throughout (women are basically irrelevant). Even the human tragedy seen lacks thorough direction to elevate it beyond just “another death”.

Shockingly the film isn’t in poor taste but it is definitely too soon to gain enough perspective or hindsight to make these events worth exploring analytically or artistically. In fact all it adds to the conversation is the methods of warfare and the boldness of the soldiers who ultimately took control of the situation.

13 Hours does play out like any other war film, but that’s not the analytical injection required for such a complex topic and event. It deserves better and the real life people depicted deserve better.


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