13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

 

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Navy SEALs defend an American compound in Libya in true Michael Bay style. Visceral 

‘escapism’ based on real events – from the director of the Transformers franchise.


13 Hours
 

Nature abhors a vacuum. When Muammar Gaddafi was overthrown in 2011, Libya became a hotbed of warring juntas. Indeed, Benghazi, the country’s second largest city, became one of the most dangerous places on earth. It is into this unstable territory that CIA recruit Jack Da Silva (John Krasinski) arrives, shortly before the eleventh anniversary of 9/11. And the “special mission compound” to which he is stationed doesn’t even “officially” exist. So when it comes under attack from hordes of rebels, the back-up plan is a little unclear…

 

Michael Bay might seem to have a ‘thing’ for Americans under attack, be it from the Japanese (cf. Pearl Harbor) or metallic extraterrestrials (cf. Transformers I, II, III and IV). Here, he rounds up his familiar personnel – barrel-chested, deltoid-flexing bearded hunks in wraparound shades – into which realm Krasinski (the geeky father-to-be in Sam Mendes’ Away We Go) – fits effortlessly after some Chris Pratt regime in the gym. However, it’s quite hard to tell one beefy, bearded Navy SEAL from another, and it’s hard to get a handle on any human element. But then Michael Bay has never really gone in for human beings, the action being the thing. To be fair, he does bring some Private Ryan madness to the table, where bodies shatter like water melons and missiles slice through trees and trucks like tissue paper.

 

It all looks fantastic (Malta doubled for Benghazi) and verisimilitude is the order of the day. On this occasion, the problem for the Americans was that the city was so congested with different factions that they couldn’t really shoot until shot at first.

 

The editing is appropriately feverish, Lorne Balfe's music propulsive and all that hardware, heat and sun effects all so very Michael Bay. Should one dig the director’s brand of male chauvinism, violence and schmaltz, then this is certainly the ticket. But be warned: the film runs at almost two-and-a-half hours and is often incomprehensible. Ridley Scott covered similar terrain much more successfully with Black Hawk Down.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini, Toby Stephens, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, David Costabile.

 

Dir Michael Bay, Pro Michael Bay and Erwin Stoff, Screenplay Chuck Hogan, Ph Dion Beebe, Pro Des Jeffrey Beecroft, Ed Pietro Scalia, Music Lorne Balfe, Costumes Deborah Lynn Scott.

 

3 Arts Entertainment/Platinum Dunes-Paramount Pictures.

144 mins. USA. 2016. Rel: 29 January 2016. Cert. 15.