“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” fails to disclose the secrets it promised.
It certainly won’t elucidate anything new for people expecting non-fiction. They’ll be met with a script that only succeeds in creating confusion, not clarity.
At the very least it’s a semi-decent action film. Here’s a rundown of Michael Bay’s traditionally action-packed version of the events: at approximately 9:50 P.M., Libyan terrorists storm the U.S. embassy and set it aflame. In the following 13 hours, Benghazi is overrun by six American ex-military operatives, many Libyans (both friends and foes), sheep and, most of all, confusion. Tension between the soldiers and a bigoted outpost chief (David Costabile, “Suits”) rises exponentially as terrorists transfer their attack from the embassy to the once-covert CIA base. Nevertheless, ex-soldiers Oz (Max Martini, “Exit Strategy”), Rone (James Badge Dale, “The Walk”), Jack (John Krasinski, “Aloha”), Boon (Dave Denman, “Outcast” ), Tanto (Pablo Schreiber, “The Brink” ) and Tigs (Dominic Fumusa, “Outliving Emily”), don’t hesitate to risk their lives to protect the CIA officials housed within the base.
Screenwriter Chuck Hogan’s (co-writer of “The Strain” trilogy) script reveals little about his meatheaded soldiers besides their nicknames. Quite honestly, I don’t know if I would have recalled anything about Jack if not faced with the frustration of watching Krasinski portray someone other than the charming Jim Halpert from “The Office.” Jack himself seems disengaged; he spends all of his time questioning why he accepted another mission in Benghazi. The two other dishonorable mentions are Oz, whose crude humor leaves a bad taste, and Rone, the squadron leader, who exudes rebellion. Their highlighted personality traits force the audience to speculate how it was these men that managed to prevent a catastrophe.
Even if Hogan’s script did articulate some notable information, it wouldn’t have been enough to save the film from its superfluous special effects. Bay’s application of computer graphics makes the film appear as more of a video game simulation than a depiction of reality. Add his excessive use of slow motion and the line between sci-fi and historical thriller is almost completely blurred.
There’s also the incessant “Bourne”-esque shakiness of the camera, an unsuccessful attempt at imitating documentary-style on-the-ground movement. Instead, it induces nausea on multiple occasions, which causes viewers to be more attentive to their unsettled stomachs than captivated by the onscreen action. Not that there’s anything to miss except for grotesque limb tearing, bursts of blood and grandiose explosions (is that what the “American Sniper” crowd wants?). Although, I must admit that watching an armored Mercedes-Benz remain in one piece after being subjected to flaming torches, bullets and rough terrain is quite the visual spectacle.
As for how the operatives stole the luxury sports cars (one of the film’s stranger setpieces), I don’t know. That’s the main issue with this film: it provokes questions but doesn’t provide answers.