DIRECTOR: Michael Baythirteen_hours_the_secret_soldiers_of_benghazi

CAST: James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini, Toby Stephens, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Freddie Stroma, David Costabile, Alexia Barlier, Andrei Claude, David Giuntoli, Shane Rowe

RUNNING TIME: 147 mins

CERTIFICATE: 15

BASICALLY…: Islamic militants attack the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and a group of US veterans are dropped in to end the siege…

 

NOW FOR THE REVIEW…

The 2012 incident of Islamic militants attacking an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, has been used time and time again by right-wing Republican outlets as part of a smear campaign against the Democratic party, with particular criticism aimed at then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton when she took responsibility for the event, which is also being used by the right-wing to attempt to derail Clinton’s current Presidential campaign.  To Republicans, the Benghazi attack is a goldmine with which they can use to point the finger at their opponents and mock until the cows come home; to Democrats, it’s something they just want to put behind them and focus on things that, at this present time, are more urgent.

To Michael Bay, it’s a Call of Duty cut scene; and he has presented it as such in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, his latest display of fancy pyro-technics and almost nothing else.

Before a lot of you start getting angry that Bay is trying to make some kind of political statement with this film – as if the world really needed sound political judgement from a guy who directs giant fighting robot movies with racial stereotypes that make Jar Jar Binks look like Martin Luther King Jr. – there is absolutely none of that to be found here. Not even someone like Bay would be dumb enough to try and cram in their “intellectual” thoughts on the behind-the-scenes drama in Washington D.C., but then again he doesn’t try to do that because he’s not very good at doing much else, other than shoot films around giant explosions – and even then, he’s becoming more and more redundant at doing that.

13 Hours is just the latest of his films outside the Transformers franchise to try and look more grown-up than his material suggests, and while it is a far more tolerable film than the ungodly awful Pain & Gain it still fails to reach an audience outside of Bay’s comfort zone of right-wing nutters and horny teenage boys. Nobody outside of those key demographics is going to find much joy in this film, not just because it takes a real-life event and makes an unashamedly pro-military action sequence out of it, but also because it’s really, really boring.

Bay, as usual, seems to be under the impression that a lengthy action sequence can carry a film all on its own, neglecting the more important elements like character, a solid narrative, and a reason to actually care. He has every opportunity to explore those options in the first act, a Hurt Locker-style thriller set amidst the rough backdrop of daytime Benghazi, but in all that time he never devotes it to developing the paper-thin characters nor to explaining why the situation is as bad as it gets later on. So, by the time the siege finally kicks in around the 45-minute mark,  we have absolutely no reason to give a damn about anything that’s going on, or who it’s happening to; because to Bay, those elements don’t mean a thing since all anyone wants to see is things going “boom” amidst heavy gunfire for the remaining 102 minutes. What he didn’t count on, as is now common with his films, is that the audience is going to get bored of things very quickly if there isn’t a proper reason to get invested. You can throw in as many explosions as you want, but it’s still not going to get people interested in what’s going on.

In an attempt to make these people more interesting and complex than they actually are, Bay also crams in as many clichés and unsubtle character traits as he can, including uniquely terrible lines like “Payback’s a bitch, and her stripper name is Karma” and a montage of everyone video-chatting with their families that is so straight-laced that it borders on parody. There are also scenes of people dancing around to LMFAO’s “Sexy and I Know It” like frat-boy douchebags, playing endless levels of Call of Duty – adding more emphasis to the theory that to Bay, this is all one big cut scene from that gaming franchise – and comic relief Libyan interpreters wearing protective gear in a way that an ignorant teen would dress – and yet none of them ever give us a reason to care at all when they’re placed in the line of fire.

He may be known for his extensive action scenes and explosions-on-standby, but this is some of Bay’s most incoherent action to date; a lot of it goes by in quick flash-cuts of people getting shot in half amidst some of the most headache-inducing shaky-cam work thus far in his career, and some of it is even ripped off from some of his own work, such as a POV shot of a bomb dropping down from the sky that is almost shot-for-shot the same as the memorable one in Pearl Harbour. By the time it gets halfway through, you’ve started counting down the minutes until it’s all over, and even when it does it keeps going for a solid ten minutes at least. There is never a reason to care about what’s going on, which makes it an ungodly bore to watch even after the umpteenth explosion.

It’s both a blessing and a curse that Bay chose not to address the political fall-out over the real-life Benghazi attacks in 13 Hours; on the one hand, the last thing we need in this boring set display of pyro-technics and torturous non-stop action is a firm message by a guy who’s honestly not smart enough to give one; but on the other hand, it would have at least been something noteworthy in an otherwise dull and forgettable film.

SO, TO SUM UP…

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi fails to excite anyone outside of Michael Bay’s key demographic of horny teenagers and right-wing nutjobs, making the real-life siege look like one overlong and boring cut scene from a Call of Duty game instead of the controversial political scenario it was.