Hot Take: For what it is, it’s a good (not great) movie. It’s easily identifiable as a Michael Bay film (the slow motion, the cheesy dialogue, the blowin’ stuff up real good, the complete and utter lack of an editor — even the title this time!) which is some good and some bad. Overall, it’s a good movie that suffers from a bloated first half and a second half that some will chalk up as combat porn.
My expectation meter typically sits in the middle to low range on movies released in January and even lower when the movie has a Michael Bay attachment. Enter 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi. The movie is so desperate to present itself as historically accurate, it wears a name more fitting for a documentary. Based on a book — “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi” — which is the retelling of the Benghazi ordeal as told by the five surviving CIA security contractors who are the central characters in the movie, it is fairly accurate. It also makes every effort to not be political. It makes no bones about pointing out governmental ineptitude but it doesn’t point fingers or name names. So, it’s sort of not political (like an unlit M-80 isn’t an explosive).
There’s plenty of intensity and drama in the movie. It’s often dragged out with Bay’s questionable directorial choices and obvious “go green” policy regarding wasting film as it seems Bay rarely, if ever, has anything edited from him movies. I guess there’s a possibility of a 3-4 hour version of 13 Hours somewhere but, at 144 minutes, it overstays it’s welcome.
“Spoiler Free” Pros
- The Action Scenes
The sights and sounds of war are presented with great detail here by Bay. When combat ensues, Bay is at his best and delivers some compelling action and a presentation of the battle that captures the difficulty the CIA security contractors in doing what they were hired to do.
- Escaping Jim from The Office
John Krasinski’s character from the long running hit NBC show is iconic… and impossible to imagine as gun for hire sent to the Middle East to defend the ideals of ‘merica. In order to prepare for his role as “Jack”, Krasinski trained with the same person who trained Bradley Cooper for American Sniper. Early on in the film, Krasinski is seen shirtless and ripped and with one quick visual, Bay wipes away all memories of Jim. It might be Bay’s crowning achievement outside of that bombing scene in Pearl Harbor (unless you consider committing unspeakable horrible acts upon my childhood a crowning achievement).
“Spoiler Free” Cons
- Those Michael Bay Fingerprints
You’ll see them, everywhere. If you’re a Bay fan, you’ll love it. If not, it’s a little distracting. If you’re unsure of where I fall, I was a little distracted. Oh, and there’s nothing bad about an editor, Mr. Bay. Try it one time.
- Don’t Let Anyone Kid You, This Movie Is Political
Somehow this movie will work it’s way into the next election. The biggest black mark on Hillary Clinton’s political career is Benghazi. If you believe this movie isn’t political, did Donald Trump rent out a theater in Iowa for a showing of 13 Hours and give away tickets because he wanted to entertain his backers? Um… OK.
- It’s Manipulative Without Any Real Character Development
As previously mentioned, even the title is a ploy to sell the authenticity of the movie. Instead of any real character development, 13 Hours relies on devoting a considerable amount of time having the five contractors talk to their loved ones back home and trite exchanges between the contractors themselves. Other than that, we don’t really get to know the characters.