September 11, 2012, saw a bloodthirsty attack on the American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya which led to many political recriminations as to why the US left their people in harm’s way with no air support or relief.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a meaningfully high-brow, tender piece of big screen investigative journalism – just kidding – this is Michael ‘Transformers’ Bay and he’s here to blow a lot of stuff up and shout ‘God Bless America’ at the audience as loudly as possible.
We get to witness the full ferocity of the night when a six-man American security detail tried to fight off hundreds of Islamic militants —it plays out much like Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, which was also based on real events of US forces outnumbered by impossible odds. Bay, however, ups the gung ho, macho factor to maximum and peppers the narrative with the Yanks saying things like ‘we’re doing the right thing’ (which is apparently wiping out hundreds of nasty locals).
It all looks good, thanks in large part to the stylish cinematography of Dion ‘Edge of Tomorrow’ Beebe, and is certainly exciting when the battle kicks off – but there is a deeply ingrained feeling that this is a propaganda-em-up rather than a balanced account of a truly desperate situation.
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The cast go about their heavy weapon business with aplomb. Back stories for the likes of lead character Jack Da Silva (John ‘Jim from the US Office’ Krasinski) and his fellow Navy SEAL pal Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods (James ‘Iron Man 3’ Badge Dale) are just quick clichéd sketches. More time is devoted to the copious amounts of less memorable Top Gun-lite man banter between the team in the build up to the ‘action’.
Throw into the mix an obstinate outpost commander (David ‘Breaking Bad’ Costabile) who resents having the security team around – but who is also reluctant to let them try to save the visiting US Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) when his compound comes under attack.
As the carnage eventually ramps up, Bay gets a bit carried away with jump cutting between surveillance drone footage, close up shock and awe muzzle flashes and shots of the Americans either panicking (the CIA staff) or being heroically stoic (the security operatives).
One for gun action enthusiasts only...
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