13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Keeping in line with solid post-9/11 war films like The Hurt Locker and Lone Survivor, 13 Hours is a brutal, effective, and extremely accurate interpretation of what happened that night on September 11, 2012. As with those other films, this is about as apolitical as the film can get. The focus is on the men on the ground there to protect us. There is no mention of Obama or Hillary Clinton. If you have read the book, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, be prepared to watch a direct-to-film adaptation.
One of the most surprising things about the film is the fact that it’s directed by Michael Bay. This doesn’t feel like a Bay film at all. No robots, no CGI, no sexism, and only one slow motion shot. This feels more like Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down than any Michael Bay film. It’s a testament to how hard he worked on this film and how much he cared about it. The soldiers’ personalities were there and you feel like you get to know these guys and care about them. Keep in mind that these guys are not CIA, but a contracted security force the government decided to use as a band-aid while they cut the military budget, leaving many American compounds and embassies overseas with little security. These guys were ex-military and were leaving their families back home by choice in order to keep Americans safe. This particular team included Jack Silva (John Krasinski), Rone (James Badge Dale), Tanto (Pablo Schreiber), Tig (Dominic Fumusa), Oz (Max Martini), and Boon (David Denman). They are eventually aided by an evacuation team led by Glen ‘Bub’ Doherty (Toby Stephens). When the attacks went down, these guys were the Ambassador’s only support (along with his team of maybe five guys). Being overrun by hundreds of hostiles armed with missiles and unlimited weaponry, this small team of guys shouldn’t have been enough to hold them all back. There is even a reference to the Alamo, which this situation ended up becoming…like a modern day Assault on Precinct 13 in the Middle East.
It shouldn’t be any surprise that the action here is solid. If there was ever anything the director was great at, it was his eye for action sequences. The tension he builds from the beginning moments in the film all the way to the end is palpable. You are swept up in the paranoia and fear that these men felt every day, something I didn’t think this director was really capable of. I know it seems like I am talking bad about Bay, but I am just surprised at how genuine a film he has made here. I have enjoyed his films in passing…Transformers, Pain & Gain, The Rock, and the Bad Boys movies are fun to watch in their own right, but I can’t say they are memorable. If Bay had done Pearl Harbor like he did 13 Hours, it would be the definitive film for that part of history.
Overall, I really didn’t have a problem with this movie at all. I have heard some people can’t tell one person from another, but I had no issue with that. Each of the men have their own distinct personality and, to a certain extent, look to them that I could always tell who was who. It’s interesting to see The Office’s Jim Halpert here as a buff, hardened, military guy but he really pulls it off. I would like to see him do more things. The real standout here for me is James Badge Dale as Rone. I’ve seen the actor in a number of things, always knowing him as Jack Bauer’s partner in season three of 24. He’s been popping up recently in some great stuff like Shame, Stretch, Iron Man 3, The Pacific, The Walk ,and The Grey. It’s here though that I feel like he’s finally got a role that shows why he’s great. He’s got a tough charm to him, you want to like the guy and you would follow him anywhere. He fits this role perfectly and I hope this gets him more work.
13 Hours is a testament to the men who lost their lives that night in Benghazi, as well as to the men who fought to keep everyone else safe. Politics aside, I do hope everyone gets a chance to see this film. It deserves all the money it makes and these men deserve the recognition.
Runtime: 2 hours, 24 minutes
Rating: R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language