Screenplay by Chuck Hogan
Directed by Michael Bay
Starring: James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini, Dominic Fumusa, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, David Costabile
Up until seeing ‘13 Hours’ I had been doubting the wisdom of including the title card ‘Directed by Michael Bay’ in the trailers for his movies. It didn’t seem wise on the part of the studios, not a glowing endorsement at all. While his latest effort does have some overly explosive star spangled ‘Bayesque’ elements its definitely a much more gritty and engrossing movie than any Bay film I can recall.
Based on the true story of the 2012 attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi Libya,‘13 Hours’ follows six members of a contract security team fighting to defend the base and save their countrymen. Although the timing of this film is notable for those that follow American politics and the criticism of the response to the Benghazi attacks, ‘13 Hours’, for the most part, sticks to the immediate story on the ground. Overall strong performances lead this more character based action flick to be an enjoyable and intense ride.
It’s the mental battle the characters go through that is captured most brilliantly in ‘13 Hours.’ The engrossing suspense for the audience comes from each character’s anguish that he doesn’t have the first clue about who is going to try to blow his head off or how long his local ‘friends’ are going to stay around. It must be terrible for western soldiers who’ve gone into situations such as this. We like to think we can apply western morals to the middle east but the harsh truth is that the notion of ‘Queensbury Rules’ can be all but non existent on the ground. This film captures, in narrative form, what it must be like to endure such a maze, and it’s frightening.
Now ‘13 Hours’ does feel rough around the edges. There is some clumsy dialogue along with the strong, the cut could have been refined and the ending is overly drawn out with negligible benefit drawn from real life archival images. But the film does feel like Bay is trying to break the self imposed shackles of the stereotypes that he frequents. You can feel him cutting them loose (or rather blowing them up, in typical Bay style) and by the end of the film he’s achieved something I’ve missed in every one of his other works, a connection with the characters.
These are men who keep wondering why they’re there. That’s the tragedy of the story and the audience will be left wondering the same thing.
I’m glad to say none of the Libyan cars turned into thirty foot tall fighting machines, nevertheless the world these contract warriors find themselves trapped by, truly an alien place, does really suck you in.