Heavy subject in today’s review. As usual with anything a little bit off kilter, controversial, or political, I want to state that we at I Watch Too Many Movies will not give our own personal opinion on the movie. We are just here to review the movie itself.
Michael Bay is one crazy dude. Not only can the man figure out a way to kill the Transformers as a franchise with exceptional CGI and explosions, but he can also slow down long enough to direct a film like 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. When I say slow down, I’m probably searching for the word restraint.
Even if Bay twisted the explosion knob down from his usual 11, this was still an action movie after all, so yeah, there were explosions. I will give it to Bay that he did something that I didn’t think was possible: took a highly charged political issue and made it about the event instead of the aftermath. That takes some guts and I appreciate Mr. Bay for that action and sparing us from his opinion.
13 Hours was based off a 2014 book (13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff, who took actual accounts from the point of view of the Benghazi compound’s defenders. The book itself does not address any of the political controversy surrounding the attacks in the aftermath of the September 11th, 2012 horrible incident.
I’ll give a quick thought I had while I was watching the film. In the beginning, the information on the screen read, “This is a True Story”. If you’ll recall, I explained what these types of terms meant in the world of film. When I read those words on the screen, I got to thinking about the “Chain of Custody”. Quick definition is that when evidence or something else is handled by multiple people, each of them sign off so that anyone can quickly identify where, when, and who had the evidence. Basically, it’s a much more accurate version of “Telephone”.
Anyway, all I’m trying to say is that you can believe the depiction of the events in the film about as much as a packet of salt. Here we have an author who discussed the events with the survivors, then we have Michael Bay and his writers dissecting the book and creating a screenplay from it, and finally the actors actually got a chance to discuss the events with the individuals that experienced those hellish hours.
If you want my opinion, the “Chain of Custody” had so many places to break and I believe it did. That’s okay though. Like I said, there were no allegations made in the film or the book, and the actors portrayed their characters who likely couldn’t care a “Lesser Hemsworth Brother” about the politics.
We’re glad they took the politics out of the event. Great job Mr. Bay. Now, what did you fill the two hours with? Actually a pretty solid action flick. From the very beginning of the movie, it was obvious that our heroes were in hostile territory. I mean even before Jim Halpert, excuse me, I mean John Krasinski‘s character lands in Libya, he’s given the evil eye about 100 times.
At this point, it is my complete obligation to tell you that I really had a hard time separating Krasinski’s character from his portrayal of Jim Halpert in The Office. He doesn’t deserve that at all, as there isn’t even a “Hint of Halpert” (say that five times fast) in the whole movie. I just really kept waiting for him to turn and look at the camera and shrug his shoulders. I saw an interview with him and he said that he never once slipped into a Halpert-ism. In fact, all the actors do a very good job (but odd how more than two of them were from The Office). Perhaps it’s because they were allowed to discuss this particular incident directly with their real-life counter-parts or something else, but every single person took their job seriously. It was the script that was a bit heavy handed.
Here is my huge issue, these guys went through hell and back. You don’t have to spend every other minute reminding me that they either have a family, a dog, or a pet cactus. WE GET IT, the stakes were high. In Hollywood, there is a tendency to spoon feed the audience the emotions of the characters instead of letting the ambiance and actors do their jobs and, you know, tell the story. Chuck Hogan, who wrote the screenplay from the novel, can do good work, I’ve seen or read it. He wrote The Strain series with Guillermo del Toro and even wrote the novel in which the film The Town was based. So I’m not quite sure why the audience is bashed over the head with a Skype call to family, new pregnancies, calling children, or even taking photos into battle throughout the whole movie. If anyone had bothered to watch the trailer, they would know that there is tons of action, gunfights, and explosions, then they likely knew someone was going to die. Come on, this is based on a real event, you could have spoiled the movie by reading a HISTORY TEXTBOOK.
Other than being told repeatedly that this is a dangerous situation, the film is fine. Typical action with plenty of gunfire, death, explosions, and the terrible feeling that you have no idea who is your enemy and who may be a sympathizer. I was especially impressed by how the actors shot and reloaded in this scenario. Typically, in every other action movie, an automatic weapon fires for minutes at a time and doesn’t need to be reloaded. This wasn’t the case in 13 Hours. Small 3-4 round bursts and dedication to actual tactical maneuvers that might be used in an actual battle.
The set was interesting in that the creators used all of the actual blueprints to construct the buildings in the film. That’s a pretty neat bit of dedication. Last thing that was impressive? The beards. Apparently, and this is true, if you’re going to be stationed in a CIA base, and you’re hired mercenaries, then you have to have an awesomely groomed beard at all times.
Didn’t read my fancy words, here is the short version:
Michael Bay actually showed some restraint in this film about a real-life event that was devastating for our country and he kept the political aspects completely out of the film. The actors did play “super-hero” versions of their actual counter-parts, but they hit the right notes and didn’t ring false at all with just a few real touches. I was a little disappointed in the script as it intravenously fed you the stakes of the event and the artificial terror of someone dying. It’s not a bad film to see in theaters, but you’ll enjoy it just as well by streaming or buying it on Blu-Ray. Oh, and if you even had to wonder what I consider to be Michael Bay’s best film, then shame on you.
Quick little bonus for all you good boys and girls. In the first 15 minutes of the film, I realized that all grizzled looking action stars had one thing in common: they either roll up their shirts or wear short sleeves. Just take a look (and know this is just the tip of the iceberg):
Now you can look for it in the next film you watch. Have a nice day.