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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Review


Release Date: 15 January 2016 [USA]
Director: Michael Bay
Writer: Chuck Hogan [Screenplay] - Mitchell Zuckoff [Book]
Cast: John Krasinski - Pablo Schreiber - James Badge Dale



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Posted February 1, 2016 by

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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Review:

Jack Silva arrives in Benghazi post-revolution, contracted with five others to help protect a covert American outpost. When an American ambassador settles in to try and help stabilise the city the six contractors are placed on his security detail. Soon, the Ambassador’s compound comes under attack from Libyan militias and the contractors put their lives on the line.

To begin with, this movie is not enjoyable. It begins somewhat promisingly, with our two leads immediately thrown into a tense standoff. We find that these are capable guys in tight spot. Later you find out that they all have sweet families back home. And…that’s it on character development. Seriously, that is it. There is no investment or sympathy for these six contractors (another term for mercenary). In a rare moment of downtime, John Krasinski’s Jack Silva misses his family and wonders aloud why he can’t stay home. Badge Dale replies that warriors don’t quit. Simply a butch way of saying Silva was bored with stateside, 9-5 life and wanted some action so he came to a foreign warzone and now he’s regretting it. How can you sympathise with that?

No attempt is made to explore the movie’s antagonists who simply end up as a nameless swarm. Perhaps this was intentional as the besieged Americans have no idea who is friend and who is foe. Still, it makes for confused viewing. The depth present in Black Hawk Down, Green Zone or Captain Phillips is completely absent here. The end titles feel quite insensitive also. They honour the handful of American dead but nothing is said about Libya except that it is now a failed state and ISIS is on the rise. How many Libyans died during the revolution? How many have died since? They don’t get a mention.

Like a hyper-active kid whose words crash into each other, Bay is just so excited to tell you his story. It’s normally not fun for the person trying to pay attention. In Mad Max: Fury Road, every shot was painstakingly ordered so that the bigger picture could be followed by a kid. 13 Hours is indiscernible. You jump between groups of characters whose names you struggle to remember (and can’t tell apart, most of them being bearded, burly white ‘Muricans.) Shots seem thrown together haphazardly. 13 Hours is a movie that happens at you, rather than welcoming you in and immersing you as all films should.

Bay has tried his hand at a genre which Ridley Scott and Paul Greengrass have successfully contributed too. Bay has not. As a movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is an impenetrable, chaotic lightshow that runs for too long. As a Mercedes Benz commercial though, it’s bloody amazing!


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Michael Keyes
Silences Band
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