I expected 13 Hours to be a lot of things. A conservative puff piece about liberal failings, a biased take on the varying situations in the Middle-East that paints a blanket “all Muslims are bad Muslims” story in a two-hour show, or another American Sniper that was just flat out racist propaganda. Is Michael Bay’s take on Benghazi any of things? Surprisingly”¦no.
Let’s start this off right though: is 13 Hours a good movie? It’s mediocre as a film but probably the best modern military action movie since Black Hawk Down. Certain moments in the later acts of the movie really show off the effects genius that is Michael Bay. He isn’t necessarily a bad filmmaker but does make some bad choices when it comes to placements of his effects. His bad choices are littered throughout a particular moment in the first part of the movie.
We begin with John Krasinski’s character Jack Silva, a solider trying not to be a soldier but is constantly called back to being one by his buddy Tyrone Woods played by James Badge Dale. The two of them have a conversation about their personal state of affairs back home. Apparently, Silva wanted to get into real estate which failed, so he came back to work as a contractor for security purposes. The story takes off from there and does a virtually good job in keeping the audience intrigued with all the characters throughout the entirety of the film. It also does a great job in helping the audience understand the various groups operating in Libya during the time which is a great metaphor for the entire Middle East. During a particular scene, an operator is running through the street with local allies and continuously asking if these guys we’re passing are on our side. The local then spouts off one by one who is and who isn’t based on his own knowledge of the situation. There are many cheesy moments when it comes to the operators contacting their families back home. Moments that made me roll my eyes, anyways. The problems don’t lie with the story during the first half of the film; they lie in the technical choices made during the invasion of the Diplomatic Outpost.
Look, it’s 2016, we’ve had movies like The Raid, Dredd, and Winter Soldier come out where properly showing off great action sequences has proven the be the greater choice over shaky cam and quick cuts. Unfortunately, Bay didn’t get the memo from these movies during the invasion of the diplomatic outpost. Instead, he chooses to crawl into his comfort zone of making it impossible to tell what the hell is going on during that moment. One could say it was an artistic choice to show the chaos of the situation, but there are many other ways to invoke chaos surrounding the scene. Some would say the moment speaks for itself. I would be one of those people. Thankfully, it doesn’t last long””maybe only 15 minutes of the entire 144-minute film””when the operators show up those technical choices are pretty much over.
13 Hours is probably the best modern military movie to come out since Hurt Locker. Is it better than any of the Katherine Bigelow films? Of course not. She’ll always have that top spot of being the best director for those types of jobs, but Bay does well at conveying an extremely complicated situation even if some of the events may have been distorted according to CIA spokespeople. What really made the movie great was Bay going away from his typical writing team and working with Chuck Hogan (The Town) and the author of the book the film is based on, Mitchell Zuckoff. If you want a good popcorn film, go check out 13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Politics aside, it’s not that bad of a flick.