13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Review

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Much of Michael Bay’s career has been spent in the land of make-believe, usually concerned with the best way of shooting two gigantic robots having a scuffle. Yet, his last film based on real events was the surprisingly excellent Pain & Gain, where he played up to the farcicality of the narrative, and produced a frivolous, light drama that made for immensely entertaining cinema. This time round, however, he depicts the fateful attack in Benghazi, Libya on September 11th 2012 on an American compound. Given the nature to this profound, upsetting tale, he isn’t provided with the same sense of freedom and license. This is exactly where this generic picture falls short, lacking in that human, rawness that the story demands.

Our focus is primarily on Jack (John Krasinki) who joins his friend Rone (James Badge Dale) in Benghazi in a bid to restore order to a community in turmoil following the recently departure of the oppressive dictator Gaddafi. Though initially appearing to be a somewhat straightforward operation, the pair – alongside compatriots Tanto (Pablo Schreiber), Oz (Max Martini), Tig (Dominic Fumusa) and Boon (David Denman) – find themselves in severe danger when a vast group of locals attack, leaving them outnumbered and fighting desperately for their lives as they await some much needed, friendly back-up.

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One of the issues with this underwhelming drama is the lack of depiction for both sides fighting this war. No matter how reprehensible the antagonists may be, it is essential for filmmakers to offer a balanced, impartial take – also working as a means to allow the viewer to attempt to understand the motives and intentions of the other side. Instead, 13 Hours features not a single character with any depth nor distinction from the Libyan attackers, appearing merely as nondescript, faceless villains. That said, even the American soldiers are not exactly fully realized, well-crafted creations. Without palpable back-stories or nuances, it’s a struggle to fully connect emotionally with their situation.

We also seem to be without that one protagonist, a clear entry point that can provide this film with a real focus. On a more positive note, the action sequences are compelling in parts, unrelenting in their approach. Bay, for all of the criticisms, has certainly created an immersive second act, albeit making up for the flaws of the first.

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3 comments on “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Review

  1. m jl

    I don’t know where you reviewers come from . The point of the movie is the bravery and dedication of some Americans and the lack of support that came from the USA . You want character development go see Nicholas Sparks . the movie is the story as it happened . anything less than that , you would have complained it was not true and had too much added in to the story.

  2. Bob Napper

    ” A struggle to fully connect with their situation” Did your reviewer even watch the movie? Sounds like he just took a couple of tokes, called Michael Moore to compare panty sizes, then phoned it in. You should probably not hire anyone who still lives in their mothers basement. I would challenge him to set up an interview with the surviving members of the Benghazi team so that he may express his view of the events in person.

  3. Stefan Pape

    Hi Bob, thanks for your comment. Though you’ve misjudged my review completely. Any criticisms I have are about this as a piece of cinema, that’s an important distinction to make and what my job requires me to do. Any apprehensions I have are solely and squarely a response to the film. So when I say I struggled to form an emotional connection, that is a fault of the filmmakers, and not associated to the real events whatsoever.

    Oh and by the way, I did actually set up an interview with the surviving members of the Benghazi Attack, and we got on just fine, thanks. http://youtu.be/1EeYDkO6Z4Y

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