Directed by Michael Bay. Starring John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Paolo Schrieber, Matt Letscher, Alexia Barlier.
THE PLOT: On September 11th 2012, an attack on a temporary consulate in Benghazi killed the US Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens (Matt Letscher). Later that night, a secret CIA compound one mile away was laid siege to, leaving six ex-military officers to protect the base and those within it.
THE VERDICT: Based on a true story, this is only the third such tale told by Michael Bay after ‘Pearl Harbour’ and ‘Pain & Gain’. The trouble is that although there is surely a story to be told here, the film descends into a gratuitous bloody fire fight for most of its running time, with little back story and even fewer fleshed out characters.
The cast is led by John Krasinski, who does what he can with the little he is given, but comes out the best since he is given a chance to emote for a moment toward the end of the film. It is clear that Krasinski wanted to try something other than the lovable goofball roles he has become famous for, and while there can be little doubt that the actor can play drama, this was not the film for him to show off his range. The rest of the cast – James Badge Dale, David Costabile, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa and Max Martini – fare less well, and are watered down to thin one dimensional characters that are more video game characters than those of a film.
Chuck Hogan’s screenplay – based on the book “13 Hours” by Mitchell Zuckoff – is almost criminally underwritten, with subtitles at the start of the film giving the audience the smallest amount of back story needed for the film to function, and little else being given throughout. The characters are drawn incredibly thinly – even for a Michael Bay film – with the only attempt at making them relatable coming from their consistent talking about their children and, in one particular moment, how they have needed to visit the bathroom since before the siege began.
Michael Bay carries on the loud, bright and manic style of filmmaking that he has cultivated through the ‘Transformers’ franchise. Like the robots in disguise, it is hard to tell who is who and which side of the fight they are on – although this is continually pointed out to the audience, so it seems like a plot point. The film is incredibly poorly paced, with almost an hour of the 144 minute running time elapsing before the action begins, and the fire fight itself seeming more like a video game than one in which human lives were on the line. There are no characters to root for so in the end, the audience is left emotionally checked out.
In all, ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ could have been an interesting thriller about an attack sparked by events across the world, but as it stands it is a gratuitous and emotionally manipulative film, lacking characters, a coherent plot and someone to root for.
Review by Brogen Hayes

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Review by Brogen Hayes
1.0Gratuitous & manipulative
  • dwh

    A very good film. Enjoyed it immensely.

  • horatio

    Remember this is Michael Bay and not Ken Burns. Its a good watch but offers about as many facts and political insight as a really bad family guy episode…whoops I take that back, even the worst family guy episode has much more astute insights.

  • filmbuff2011

    13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi is what Michael Bay considers a low-budget film. If that’s what Hollywood calls $50m low-budget these days. The master of non-subtlety and trademark Bayhem is trying for something akin to Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down with this true-life story.

    Benghazi, 2012. Americans aren’t even supposed to be in the brutal warzone that is Libya. Unofficially they have a CIA intelligence outpost there which monitors activity in the area. The outpost has a last-resort security response team made up of ex-special forces members including Jack (John Krasinksi) and Tyrone (James Badge Dale). These are very tough hombres who know how to get results, but they’re in a war where they can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys. The arrival of Ambassador Stevens (Matt Letscher) at his nearby compound puts extra pressure on resources. During one long 13-hour night and morning on the significant date of September 11, the compound is over-run by heavily armed anti-American militants. The team is held back but then disobeys order and races in to rescue the Ambassador. The fight for survival, for the CIA staff, the soldiers and the Ambassador, has just begun…

    13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi is pretty much what you would you expect from a Michael Bay film. It’s loud, violent, overlong, full of gung-ho American heroism and hits you with the subtlety of a sledgehammer in the face. That may be fine for patriotic, flag-waving Americans, but for more discerning European audiences it’s a bit too much. Ridley Scott would handle this story with more meaning and political purpose and less macho bravado. That’s what you get with Bay though. Despite all that, 13 Hours is ridiculously entertaining. Shot in Malta doubling for Benghazi, the on-the-ground warfare is sweaty, non-stop stuff with these men and women pushed to the very edge of survival in uncertain, hostile territory.

    Whatever the dubious politics and faceless nature of the ‘enemy’ in the film, this reviewer was swept along by the barnstorming action sequences and tense stand-offs. Nobody makes a war movie quite like Bay, as he captures the debris, shrapnel and explosions against his trademark golden magic hour light. As time runs out, you wonder how long these people can last against overwhelming, Zulu-like forces. The performances from the lesser-known, but still good, cast keep the plot ticking along and the occasional calls back home to their families keep the characters relevant. War is hell – but Bay has a way of making everyone come out heroes. It will likely divide audiences over its approach to American foreign policy, but 13 Hours is never less than rousing entertainment. ***