Michael Bay’s “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” tells the story of six ex-military operators turned contractors hired to defend a secret CIA intelligence gathering complex in Benghazi, Libya. The film begins with footage from the Libyan Civil War, establishing the setting as the chaotic, post-Ghaddafi Libya running rampant with extremists and on the verge of being a failed state. The film did an excellent job of setting up tension.
After conveying to the viewers that Benghazi is dangerous and the operators there are at high risk, its shows them doing their normal missions but still manages to make them exciting.
For instance, in one scene, a run-of-the-mill personal security operation goes wrong and a crowd manages to get into a secure area. While the crowd was not necessarily hostile, Bay built tension by adding a simple jump scare where a waitress drops a tray, demonstrating how the first part of the movie conveys the tension each of the characters must be feeling.
The first part of the film makes a hasty attempt to establish characters in order to make the viewer feel some sort of connection with the agents, mainly Jack Silva (John Krasinski, “Away We Go”) and his old friend Tyrone Woods (James Badge Dale, “The Departed”).
Viewers can easily tell that the director wants them to feel emotionally attached to the characters, not because they actually do, but because Bay tries way too hard with painful, horribly executed scenes where all the characters call home and talk to their families. If that was not enough, once the action starts, the director uses the down time during combat scenes to add more stereotypical war movie scenes, attempting and failing to have some deep philosophical discussions among the characters. The only thing that saved the movie during these scenes was the acting. One might not expect that Krasinski, who played Jim on “The Office,” would fit so well in his role. James Badge Dale had decent chemistry with Krasinski. Even though Krasinski’s and Dale’s characters were favored throughout the film, the other actors also played their roles skillfully. With even minor characters played well, the casting for the film was surprisingly good.
Living up to Michael Bay’s directing reputation, the special effects of “13 Hours” were well done. The movie clearly had a high budget and it showed during combat scenes. Bay incorporated many cuts to the enemies being mowed down by machine guns that were not necessarily important, but were well shot.
While there were some questionable sections in the movie’s writing and directorial decisions, this film would be good for action and war movie lovers. While it might not go down in history as a great movie or a critical success, “13 Hours” is an entertaining watch and a good way to spend two hours. Just maybe not for the $12 admission fee.