Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber
Director: Michael Bay
Running Time: 144 mins
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi is an American film about the true story of a team of security operatives working in a classified base in Libya one year after the revolution who are thrust into chaos when the US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi is attacked by militants.
Michael Bay, the director of the infamously bad Transformers series, has come up with a genuinely exciting, tense and engaging thriller with 13 Hours. It’s no masterpiece by any means, and suffers from poor pacing and an occasional lack of depth, but all in all, with a ton of thrilling action sequences throughout, this is the sort of film that Bay should be making, because really is an entertaining and impressive watch.
The events of the film are based on a true story from September 2012. Therefore, the film is dealing with extremely recent history as it looks at the aftermath of the Libyan revolution, but it manages to portray it with assurance and intelligence. Although the political situation becomes secondary to the action in the latter half, the insight that this film has into the instability in the Middle East is very interesting, and manages to provide a lot more intrigue in some of the duller parts of the story.
But what the film is really about is the chaotic events that transpired on the night of September 11. As such, this is a hugely action-packed war film, but what’s best is that it succeeds in creating genuine tension, fear and excitement on a regular basis.
Although the film does take a little too long to kick off, the first burst of action is exhilarating. Bay’s direction and overuse of shaky cam is at times frustrating, but in general, once this film moves into its middle portion all about the battle in Benghazi, and the desperate attempts of these soldiers to stay alive, is hugely exciting.
From then on, we get over an hour of non-stop action that is both entertaining as well as tense. There are moments where the battle dies down, but the film keeps moving through its use of suspense shown by the confusion of soldiers.
The plot largely focusses on the team’s desperate attempts to make sense of the situation at hand, and in that, we get the opportunity to really cheer them on as they just go forth and do what they think is right. Disregarding the political situation and their own preoccupations, these soldiers are shown as brave and talented, and their decision to go out and save lives is a great moment in this film.
However, this isn’t a total glorification of war and patriotism. It does have the whole ‘no man left behind’ mentality (and it takes a lot of inspiration from Black Hawk Down itself), but the grit and, particularly in the final act, the violence, do present some interesting and intelligent questions regarding the entire Middle East situation.
Like I said, this film isn’t a total masterpiece. The first act is too slow, and the final act lingers too much. At nearly two and a half hours long, this film should really have been cut down a lot, but its middle portion, the action-driven period of the film, is truly excellent. Also, there’s not too much of an emotional power in this film. There are moments where it attempts to do what films like The Hurt Locker and American Sniper have done with regards to giving more humanity to the soldiers, but in general, I wasn’t on the edge of my seat hoping they wouldn’t die. They were great heroes, but they weren’t written as great, deep people.
Overall, however, 13 Hours is a very entertaining and exciting film. With a heap of thrilling action and an interesting look at the current situation in the Middle East, I was fully engaged with this film, despite its occasional pacing issues, and that’s why it gets a 7.2 from me.