When I first saw the trailer, I didn’t have high hopes for the movie. Mostly on two accounts. The less obvious reason was because the trailer didn’t give an idea of what the movie was really about, at least not that remember. But the biggest reason why I thought the movie would fail was because of this… director: Michael Bay. Um… aside from the fact that he drove the Transformers franchise, HIS OWN FRANCHISE no less, deep into the ground after the first one, but there was a time when he directed a movie based on real events and we all know how well he represented that subject matter (PEARL HARBOR). Oh sure, PAIN & GAIN was hilarious and stupid, but even the movie acknowledged that. While 13 HOURS certainly looked… interesting, I had my doubts that it’d be good. And amidst the sea of movies that I was dreading to review this week, this was probably going to be the best of the lot. But whatever, this is my honest opinion of 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI.
Based on the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi, which was based on the true events in 2012, the story follows a small group of CIA security contractors in Benghazi, Libya hired to protect an American ambassador as the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks draws near.
One of the big things I wanted to know before reviewing was whether or not the events depicted were accurate. Why? Because as previously mentioned, Bay did PEARL HARBOR and that was both a historical and a cinematic insult. It’s one thing to be the kind of director who makes movies like the Transformers franchise and to be aware of what your target audience is, but it’s a whole ordeal its own when you try to depict real events that affected real people, or in this case, a real country of people. That requires a director like Bay to set aside his adolescent brain and cinematically grow up (which he tries to do, but kind of fails at).
The only hint of this story’s accuracy to the book that I could find was Wikipedia’s article on the book and VERY briefly states, “The book is an account from the point of view of the compound’s defenders, and does not address any of the political controversy surrounding the attacks.”
As the movie seems to not address any of the politics, I can only assume that Bay technically did his job. Any other sources that either praise or bash this movie seem to be pointing political-agenda fingers at Bay. I’m not hearing any of the surviving operatives offer their two cents, so either they don’t have a problem with the movie’s accuracy, or… they’re working on it.
AS IT STANDS, it’s accurate as far as I know.
Let me just weigh in on my opinion of the film. The first thing I noticed about the characters is that they seem a lot more like people in a story (like Ed Harris from THE ROCK) rather than characters in a cartoon (like Shia Lebeouf in the Transformers series). Unfortunately, even that is transparent due to the unbearably horrible writing in the first quarter of the film. Seriously, all of the secondary characters speak in exposition. “In two weeks, I’m retiring, you will not fuck this up.” Who talks like that to someone they don’t know?! So if you hear any complaints about bad writing, yeah, it’s pretty bad.
While the awful writing dies off pretty fast, it gets replaced by boring writing immediately after. As you can tell, that might be a distinction that takes effort to notice. Why I put that effort into a Bay film, I’m sure I can conjure up a bullshit answer. In any case, that first third of the movie does get stale. But some credit needs to be given to the man and I couldn’t stop laughing at this. You know how he always portrays his women like objects rather than actual people, well… there’s a second-long shot of shirtless men working out in the heat, sweating, and getting close-ups of their abs. I had to bite my tongue so hard to prevent laughter because all I could think was this, “at long last, Bay is objectifying MEN!” Oh my god, I would love this year of movies if that becomes a trend and it’s MICHAEL FUCKING BAY that started it.
But now… as the terrorist attack begins on the compound, the film kicks into high gear. Oh yeah, Bay delivers on nearly two hours of high octane relentless action. That’s pretty much the rest of the film: non-stop entertaining action.
That… may not be the best thing to say about a film like this.
Reiterating: I know nothing about the events that transpired in Benghazi, and I have not read the book this film is based on, but a film depicting real events probably shouldn’t have the adjective “entertaining” attached to it. Films like this shouldn’t be there for the celebration of bad-assery, but rather to inform the general public about a situation that they may be lacking knowledge of.
Now I can’t deny that because this film is based on a book that was a recounting from the point of view from the CIA military guys, the reason why they don’t talk about the political taboos is probably because they weren’t privy to it at the time. Military tends to follow the orders of politicians, politicians don’t always feel the need to be truthful or completely forthcoming, and grunts like these guys tend to get shafted for what they don’t know. So I get that this film is probably NOT trying to be political (it fails if it is), but the focus is more on the situation. But that’s somewhat a shame because we get two-dimensional characters to carry the movie and the real focus should have been on them. Okay, yeah, this guy has two kids. That’s fine, but who is HE? What do we know about who he is? The same pretty much goes for everyone else in the movie. While Bay makes them less animated, he gives them no depth. In real events like this, I for one would rather get to know the men that fought and died for what they believed in rather than the politics or how many bullets were spent killing some terrorists.
The true sin of the movie is that it focuses on being entertaining rather than informative. And for that, it is a bad movie. Sure, it’s entertaining, but again, that may not be a good thing in this case. I’d say… pass on it.
2/5 – at least Bay TRIED to be more mature this time around