I could have sworn there was supposed to be another big Michael Bay movie coming out this weekend, but I didn’t see any signs of a good one. So I decided to finally watch 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi since it got a better reception than every Transformers movie but the first one. The controversy surround Hillary Clinton’s emails on Benghazi might have been more popular, but let’s leave the politics out of this since we get enough of that.
Michael Bay can direct a great action movie like few others, he just cannot seem to direct a great movie. So after all this time and the little bit of hype surrounding the movie … can I look past a weak cast and Michael Bay’s poor movies when it comes to enjoying this one?
I would give it 3 “actors you will recognize from random TV shows” out of 10.
FOR THE UNINITIATED
13 Hours is centered around the contractors hired to protect an undercover CIA base in 2012. Following Gaddafi’s removal from power, there are several groups vying for power and subsequently selling anything found in the weapon amories. After the US Ambassador came through, the enemies converged on the temporary embassy. With the closest base being 400 miles away, the contractors are forced to survive the night and try to make sense of who is good and who is bad.
There are a handful of known actors, but their characters all blur together in the chaos of a Michael Bay movie. Some people you may recognize are: John Krasinsky (Jim – The Office), James Badge Dale (Trooper Barrigan – The Departed), Pablo Schreiber (“Pornstache” – Orange is the New Black), David Denman (Roy – The Office), David Costabile (Gale Boetticher – Breaking Bad), and Toby Stephens (Captain Flint – Black Sails).
13 Hours captures the best of Michael Bay’s suspenseful non-stop pacing. From the start, it captures your attention not by telling a character driven story but by placing the characters in intense situations. This is surprising since the action doesn’t even start until more than halfway through. There are several small senses that build tension without a cathartic release and it carries through until the final firefight. The suspense is manufactured by the small conflicts between Americans, the building conflict between Americans and Libyans, and the larger suspense of knowing who is on their side or not.
Sadly, 13 Hours ends up being a very superficial movie that gets a little heavy handed near the end. For every great cinematic shot, there are several shaky cam shots that are overly excessive. For every tense conflict between characters, there were several exposition dumps detailing their back stories. For every great scene, the movie jumps several hours ahead suddenly and without much reason. Maybe if there was a little more time put into developing the characters naturally, then the life and death situations they are put into might be a little more grave and the audience would be more invested.
If you want to see an average Michael Bay movie where he tries to show some restraint from his normal slow-motion and explosions, but still have more action than Pain & Gain … this is for you. If you want a movie that you don’t need to shut your brain off to even remotely enjoy, then avoid this one. As a matter of fact, even if you like brainless action movies … avoid any 13 Hours. It was enjoyable enough to watch, but the more I thought about it the more I disliked it. It is available on Hulu, but there are plenty of other movies worth watching. I would say skip this one.
My recommendation for a movie where things go awry and the protagonists are overwhelmed in sheer numbers would be Siege of Jadotville. Available on Netflix, it is one of my favorite war movies that tells the story of an Irish battalion that finds itself in the middle of an African conflict. The action is much better and even though the characters seem to blend together, they are more fleshed out. This is one of my go to recommendations on Netflix in general.