13 Hours - The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi - Michael Bay's Military Fetish ... Pays Off?

Marter | 15 Jan 2016 12:00
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That 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is anywhere close to as engaging as it is should come as a minor miracle.

After the setup, the film consists of two parts: firefights and waiting for more firefights. Soldiers shoot guns at other people shooting guns, explosions go off all around them. More guns! More explosions! The often handheld cinematography gives you the feeling like you're there - which, I'd like to point out, is how it's supposed to work. Horror films, take note. 13 Hours gives us an intimate view of how these events transpired.

For the audience, that means lots of Shooty McBangBang followed by brief periods of reflection and "character moments," followed by more fireworks and gunfire. But the intimacy makes it, at least for a while, quite compelling. The camaraderie and teamwork from these individuals, the incredible physical toll this event took on them, and how real it all feels is engaging. For a while. But, like most of Bay's filmography, it goes on for too long and gets too repetitive to stay that way. At 105 minutes, we've got a far better film than we do at 144. Shooting at various unnamed baddies can't hold our attention forever. Bay really needs to hire a more ruthless editor.

Perhaps most surprisingly is the lack of politicizing done by 13 Hours. If it doesn't personally matter to the individuals within, the film isn't interested. Americans going into Libya? It doesn't matter. A lack of support from basically everyone else? That one matters, but only because it means no reinforcements. Bay doesn't want to make any grand statements - or even shed much insight nto the whole Benghazi situation. Any commentary here is like a blind squirrel finding a nut. This real-world event is used so Michael Bay can film the American military shooting or blowing up a bunch of people whom he can morally declare deserve to die. It's war porn.

That 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is anywhere close to as engaging as it is should come as a minor miracle. This isn't Michael Bay's best film, but it's a lot better than most of his filmography. That might not be saying a whole lot, in all honesty, but it's watchable and compelling for most of its running time. It feels intimate, and you can tell that Bay's actually enjoying filming this; that's when he's at his best. He'd rather be showing us a picture about soldiers than giant robots; that's why he's so focused on the soldiers in the Transformers movies. These types of passion projects - like Pain & Gain, too - result in his best work. But, hey, money talks.

Bottom Line: Watchable and intimate, although too repetitive and long to be a full success, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is surprisingly decent.

Recommendation: If you're in need of another "Hooray, American military!" movie, well, here's another one. It's moderately successful. It'll be better than almost everything else coming out in January, so ... that's something!


If you want more of Matthew "Marter" Parkinson, you can follow him on the Twitter @Martertweet and check out his weekly movie podcast.

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