If you want to feel patriotic, Michael Bay delivers the heroics and action in ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.’ It’s got it all. Thrilling action sequences shot with hand-held cameras that enhance the suspense. The reason the story works is that Bay spends little time on the bureaucratic politics and more on the men that want to do the right thing. If you overlook the jingo dialogue and one-dimensional characterization by screenwriter Chuck Hogan, you get an exciting and unflinching action picture. The 144 minutes move at a good clip. You will never have the urge to check the time on your watch. For fans of Ridley Scott’s ‘Black Hawk Down’ and Peter Berg’s ‘Lone Survivor,’ Bay’s ’13 Hours’ is immensely entertaining as it pays homage to America’s military heroes.
Based on factual events, the story focuses on the 2012 incident where two U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya were attacked by insurgents on the anniversary of 9/11. Bay gives us a little backstory on the dictator Muammar Gaddafi and his eventual demise during the Libyan Civil War. The film centers on six ex-military contract workers whose main job is protecting CIA staff based in a not-so-secret compound known as the Annex. Jack (John Krasinski from The Office) is a newly hired addition to the security force. Krasinski got ripped for the role but more importantly he is a likable guy that the audience can easily relate to and it is through his perspective that we are shown the tense situation he joins. Under the leadership of Rone (James Badge Dale), the rest of the highly-trained crew is introduced to Jack. There is Tanto (Pablo Scheiber), Boon (Dave Denman), Tig (Domninic Fumusa) and Oz (Max Martini). They are packed with firepower and leave you with the impression that they can handle any serious threat that comes their way.
The situation that triggers the events which leads to the mayhem is U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) arriving for a few days at a makeshift embassy just one mile away from the CIA Annex. A group of armed militants descend on the consulate. The soldiers at the Annex are ready to help rescue the ambassador but are told to stand down by the wimpy CIA boss (David Costabile). It’s a frustrating moment for the men that are trained to handle these dangerous situations. As an audience member, you want them to have the green light to respond. These are not just soldiers of fortune. They are all family men with loved ones back home they miss dearly. They know the dangers involved with the job but are still willing to risk their lives for fellow Americans.
Once the action unfolds, it’s gripping. The Soldiers charge to the Ambassador’s aid and save those that are still alive. They eventually figure out that the real target is the CIA Annex and race back to the compound to wait for the first assault. As the soldiers position themselves on the rooftops of the CIA compound, it’s eerily quiet. The one advantage the men have is their night vision goggles. Like zombies coming out of the fog, they begin to see images approaching the compound. The real challenge is differentiating the friendlies from the hostiles. As one of the soldiers utters, “We don’t know who’s good or who’s bad!” Once the firefight begins, Bay cranks up the adrenaline. At times, it feels like watching a first-person shooter video game. The Americans pick off their targets with precision. Just when they think it is over, another wave of insurgents converge toward the compound. Although the soldiers are far superior, the situation gets dire when the enemy brings technicals (rocket launchers) into the fray.
These six brave men are defending the CIA Annex like it’s the Alamo. Perched on rooftops, they hold back wave after wave of attackers. Bay never points fingers at specific State Department officials or gets too preachy. The main thrust of the movie is about a group of heroes doing the right thing and overcoming incredible odds. Bay skillfully puts the audience right at the heart of the battle. We feel as invested as the soldiers. You don’t have to be a conservative to appreciate Bay’s highly crafted and entertaining action movie. ’13 Hours’ pays tribute to the astonishing courage it takes soldiers to survive in a complex world. Check out the official trailer https://youtu.be/4CJBuUwd0Os.