13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

O M G – it appears Michael Bay has made a movie that is actually good. Kernel Blake states; “the best compliment I can give it is that it’s a movie that feels like it’s directed by someone else.” It isn’t a crapfest of huge explosions and questionable intelligence teenage girl tracking ass shots. OK, there are lots of explosions but there is apparently a plot to go with it. Clapping you now Mr Bay!! 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI is out now from our friends at Paramount Pictures Australia, it is rated MA15+ and runs for 144mins. Enjoy Blake’s review…..all the best…..JK.

 

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BY BLAKE CURRALL

Whenever the words ‘Directed by Michael Bay’ flash up on screen before a film, there always seems to be an air of trepidation about what is to follow. This wasn’t always the case however. Early on, Bay was the master of gung ho, blockbuster action with films such as THE ROCK and BAD BOYS, then the downward spiral began with ARMAGEDDON, PEARL HARBOR and the frankly godawful TRANSFORMERS sequels (the first one was arguably Bay’s last decent movie). To say I wasn’t expecting much from a Bay-helmed, true story war film set in Libya during the ISIL/ISIS uprising, is an understatement.

But wouldn’t you know it, Bay has delivered his most un-Bay film in years and it is a gripping, tension filled story that is paired back and (mostly) devoid of his trademark “Bayhem.” 13 HOURS follows the real life events of 2002, where a US ambassador is taken out by Islamic extremists and six US mercenaries (working for the CIA) must literally make a last stand against waves of anti-American Libyans who are armed to the teeth with a cache of weaponry raided from ex-dictator Muammar Gaddafi’s stockpiles.

The film begins with ex-Special Forces soldier, Jack (John Krasinski, THE OFFICE) arriving in Benghazi to join a rag tag group of other ex-Special Forces/Marines/Delta’s hired to protect a compound, secretly used by the CIA to monitor terrorist activity in the area. Here Jack spends his days, training with his team, missing his family and coming to terms with the growing tensions between the locals and US ‘insurgents’ and the fact that even though the Libyan army are in place to help US interests, no one can be trusted on the ground.

 

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When a US Ambassador is scheduled to visit Benghazi to kiss hands and shake babies, Jack’s team are brought in to perform security checks on the Ambassadors palace, another bonus taken by the Americans after Gaddafi’s downfall. When questions are raised by the security forces team leader, Rone (James Badge Dale, IRON MAN 3) his CIA superior, Bob (David Costabile, BREAKING BAD) about issues with the protection offered by the palace, he is told to let it go as technically they aren’t in Libya and can’t get involved in case of an international incident.

Of course, the merde hits the ventilateur when news of the ambassador’s arrival filters through to local militia who see this as the perfect opportunity to make a statement on the world stage. Packed to the gills with machine guns, rocket launchers and Molotov cocktails, the militants storm the palace, forcing the locally hired army to scatter and the thinly stretched protection detail for the ambassador to be overrun. As the battle intensifies, Jack, Rone and the security force can only watch on from their fortified compound just a mile down the road as the palace goes up in flames and are denied clearance to engage due to political red tape and bureaucracy.

After heated exchanges with the head of the CIA detail, Rone orders his team into action and all their training at the compound, including many hours playing CALL OF DUTY on the Xbox, comes to a head as they rush the compound hours after the initial attack, in order to secure the ambassador and stomp out the insurgent attack with firepower, tactics and goddamn American machoness.

 

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This is where Bay goes back to what he is known for, BAYHEM! Explosions! Gunfire! People getting obliterated by bullets! Inventive camera techniques! With the US security force blazing through the palace, they re-enlist the help of local army soldiers to help clear a path to the ambassador with Bay upping the tension, as you just never know who is a friendly and who will just turn and shoot our heroes in the back. With the palace now engulfed in flames, the diplomat is nowhere to be found and presumed dead, no thanks to those in charge delaying the order to assist in the rescue.

Dejected, the team return to their own compound to regroup, however the militia now know where the secret CIA compound is located and then the real fun begins. Wave after wave of insurgents attack the battle weary security force, who must barricade themselves on the roof of their compound to repel the ever increasing attacks from the local forces. With ammo running low and their compound crumbling around them, the team must spend the next few hours holding firm to protect themselves and the CIA team bunkered down below, waiting for help to arrive, but will it?

This is one of the areas where 13 HOURS seems to take a slightly kinder view of the events that happened that day in 2012, which just so happened to be the anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Many believe that a constant roadblock getting in the way of the diplomatic rescue mission and the lack of forces sent to help the soldiers in Benghazi, was through orders from Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, now running for President. A conscious, political decision from Bay and the screenwriters? Perhaps.

 

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13 HOURS is a surprisingly good film, Bay’s best in years and the best compliment I can give it is that it’s a movie that feels like it’s directed by someone else, such as Ridley Scott as there are similarities with his brilliant BLACK HAWK DOWN. Bay has delivered a thrilling, tension filled war movie that sheds light on a story not very well known and fills it with a great cast of characters that you actually care about and have compelling stories to tell.

13 HOURS, for the most part, stays away from typical ‘USA! USA!’ chest beating and you believe these soldiers did what they did, not just because they are cliché Hollywood good guys, but because you know that this isn’t their first rodeo, they’ve seen worse than this and survived it. Gritty, grizzled badasses that are there for the money and will get the job done, just so they can get home to take care of their families.

Hats off to you Michael Bay, a true story war film he has done before with PEARL HARBOR and well, we all know how that turned out. Thankfully, he has restrained his usual cinematic flourishes and made a pared back, gritty, almost low key action film that, while 13 HOURS has some clichéd dialogue, on the most part shows us that an old dog can learn some new tricks.

 

4 Pops

 

 

Kernel Blake is a part-time beard bandit, philanthropist, industrialist….bicyclist…photographer, world traveller, movie lover, a man of few words who enjoys the finer things in life, like reciting Snake Plissken quotes. And when all that fails, heads out to a racetrack to do skids. Can be found twatting @bcurrall80 and hipstergramming @bcurrall80

** All images courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor/publisher – credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.