FilmReview

Review: ’13 Hours’ Excites Without the Politics

Neil R. Feeney ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer

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James Badge Dale and John Krasinski in 13 Hours. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Everyone has their own opinions on Michael Bay. Some consider him to be a menace to the film industry, and others say he’s fun in small doses. What everyone must agree on though, is that Michael Bay is one of the finest action directors of this generation. His past films seem to be an all around fun movie-going experience, such as the guilty pleasure that is the Transformers franchise. He brings the same excitement to small passion projects like the crazy fun Pain and Gain, to even the science-fiction act The Island. But when it comes to Michael Bay, “small” is never small. No matter how tiny the budget, Bay always delivers something that just feels epic. And so when the blockbuster director decided on a smally budgeted film centered on the true Benghazi story, people were afraid of how he would handle it. The story is an intense one, with soldiers tasked to protecting a covert CIA base under attack. Would it be too political, considering the recent election? Would he show too many explosions? How could he make a serious movie about a serious tragedy?

Well, fear no longer. 13 Hours indeed is fun and puts the audience smack in the middle of the action, as Bay is known to do, but the story and the soldiers are the main focus of the film. The characters feel real and have dimensions, the cinematography is gorgeous, and the story rushes along at a brisk pace. The acting was good, led by a gruff John Krasinski, in a completely different role than on The Office. He handles the so-called “Bayhem” well, and honestly delivers the best army role since Bradley Cooper in American Sniper. And Although that film achieved plenty of box office success and garnered Academy Award recognition, it drew lots of criticism for being unrealistic, too contrived, and being over-propagandist. To be fair, it did feel very “Hollywood”, and that’s coming from a director like Clint Eastwood. 13 Hours, however, feels very real and involved, caring more about honoring these soldiers than telling a classic storyline. After a while, the audience really starts to care for these characters, and the film benefits from only having a few main men to care about. They feel raw and vulnerable, rather than the typical indestructible action heroes, they are real men with real wounds who must face the real possibility of death. This gives the film an extra edge, one that certainly helps immersion.

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Pablo Schreiber, John Krasinski, and David Denman in 13 Hours. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures

It is not without its flaws though. A few of the emotional scenes feel forced, like when the film hits with the classic sad piano music. A few of the supporting characters felt too one-sided at times, seemingly to create “villain” characters for the soldiers to rebel against. The film’s brisk pace caused some issues as well, with editing that seems too eager to get past all the exposition and get right to the action. The film seems to revolve around the conflict, which is fine because the main conflict should drive the action, and Bay understands this. But the editing just felt off, where the audience could never tell which fight would be the last. This was clearly an attempt to make viewers feel what the soldiers did, as they were never sure when the night of horrors would end. Intent beside, it was a tad disorienting, and slightly hurt the film because of it.

This movie was never going to be the next The Hurt Locker, but it accomplished what it was supposed to: reveal and honor the brave men that protected the American buildings in a very dangerous area. Politics are all but completely shoved aside, and all that matters is the bravery shown. Michael Bay certainly delivers on the action and the explosions. As all directors do, he has evolved over the years, and this film is arguably his best contribution to cinema thus far. It works well to shed light onto the real men and bravery behind the Benghazi tragedy, albeit with some story issues. It’s exciting, sincere, and feels real, which is all an audience can ask from a true war story.

Grade: B

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