Based on the true story of an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Against staggering odds, it’s up to six ex-soldiers to hold off a siege that will last for… you guessed it – 13 hours.
So, is it any good?I definitely got more than I’d bargained for with this movie, I imagined the plot to be – “Secret Base under attack, tough guys defend base – Boom, Boom, Bang, Bang – Wave an American flag in slow mo – Credits”. Instead Director Michael Bay delivers plenty of different locations, high tension and a few car chases in the build up to ‘The Big Siege’.True stories aren’t new territory for Bay having already cut his teeth on ‘Pain and Gain’, ‘Pearl Harbour’ and the historical biopic ‘Transformers’. You can see that he wants to tell a true story but ultimately he would rather that the viewer was entertained. Even though it may feel like a documentary at times, you’ll have no doubt that you’re watching a Bay movie. Great set design (lots of billowing fabric), guys in uniform pointing at comuoter screens, explosions and kids running in slow mo. Oh, and low angle shots: Low angle car driving, low angle gun firing, even low angle paper shredding. Sprinkled with enough lens flair that would put JJ Abrams to shame. I’m not a massive fan of his recent work (Transformers/ Pain and Gain) as most of them suffer from the same problem as 13 Hours, they’re just too long. You could lose 20 minutes and still have the same amount of impact. However, don’t let that deter you from checking out 13 Hours, it’s still a great action packed popcorn movie from a return to form ‘Classic Bay’ (The Rock/ Bad Boys). Some people may have a problem with how soon this film was made after the actual event and Bay’s political motivations behind it. Although personally, I like that this is a recent representation, even a heavily dramatized one, of something that happened less than 4 years ago. Michael Bay has said this not a political movie, although I’m sure the then secretary of state during this crisis, Hillary Clinton, may disagree.
Unless you’re very familiar with the source material, in this case Mitchell Zuckoff‘s book (or news reports), you never quite know how the story will turn out. From most accounts it stays relatively true to the source, with the survivors of the siege co-writing the book and a consulting on set. Mixed in with the bravado is the occasional tender moment to tug at your heart strings, with everyone having a Girl, a Kid or a Dog waiting for them back home. The stand out moments for me are when the tension is turned up to 11, especially when the heroes can’t tell the friendlies from the foes. You can feel yourself making the same decisions as the characters – Shoot? – Don’t shoot? For all the intense action, there are occasional funny one liners that help lighten the mood. You can be in the middle of a raging firefight and next door the farmer is watching the football on TV, just another typical day in Benghazi. The US comedy TV series The Office regulars John Krasinski and David Denman are joined by Pablo Schreiber from Orange is the New Black, although playing serious roles, they help add some much needed levity. Sometimes the comedy button is pushed once too often, such as ‘The Chief”, whose character is taken straight out of a 1980s cop movie, shouting lines like “You’re not authorised to leave!” Unfortunately the locals are made to look less than competent and occasionally the butt of a few jokes. It’s worth paying attention to the cast at the start of the movie, as unless you know the actors really well, some people may find it hard to follow who’s who when the mortars start to fly. For all of his patented flag waving, Michael Bay ultimately leaves you with a very potent message, that whatever the outcome of a war, there are no winners.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, in cinemas now.
What do you think, is it too soon or should this film be taken for what it is, an action packed blockbuster? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below. If you’re keen to find out more I’ve included a featurette on the real soldiers – ‘The Men Who Lived It’: