Kyle J. Steenblik

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is Almost Unbearable

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13-hours-movie-poster13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Directed by: Michael Bay
Screenplay by: Chuck Hogan
Based on 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff
Starring: James Badge Dale,
John Krasinski, Max Martini, Dominic Fumusa, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Toby Stephens, Demetrius Grosse, Freddie Stroma
Running time 144 minutes
Rated R

2 stars out of 513 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi recounts the events of the September 11 2012 attacks of the US Diplomatic outpost, and a secret C.I.A. Operations compound in Benghazi, Libya.  The film depicts the events leading up to the attack, the C.I.A. Contract security personnel tasked with protecting the secret operation were also tasked with covertly protecting U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens while he was outside the diplomatic compound which had minimal security.  When Islamic insurgents attacked both compounds, less than a dozen of these former military security contractors fought impossible odds to save as many lives as possible.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is an almost unbearable two and a half hours of patriotic machismo packed with nauseating camerawork and all the subtlety of an American flag colored Wacky Waving Inflatable Arm-Flailing Tube Man.  From the opening statement of “this is a true story”, the skewed narrative appears intent on retelling history from a pre-determined conclusion.  Every step of this film panders to a very specific audience in a “lowest common denominator” type of way, as if Bay was too worried about the point going over the audiences’ head, so he had to aim for the crotch.  To say his approach and tone of the film turned me off would be an understatement, but maybe I just need a real man to explain this machismo action packed politically propagandized film to me.

It would be easy to argue that the biggest fault in the film is the unbelievable lack of subtlety.  With some dialogue so contrived it could be on a jingoistic 1940’s war propaganda poster.  The best example of this is a line at the end of the film, as the survivors are finally rescued from the compound and about to escape Libya the C.I.A. operation director says to one of the security contractors “I’m proud to know an American like you.”  This might not have felt so egregiously excessive if we had not already spent more than two hours with constant illustrations about what awesome American heroes these guys were.  For a portion of the audience in the theatre, this was a parting jab at the bureaucratic foil that stood in the way of the real American heroes.  I felt like I was watching a euphemistic sex act draped in an American flag.

Michael Bay was absolutely the wrong choice to make this film, with his inability to allow a narrative to unfold without driving it into the ground before it can develop, and his love for shaky hand held cameras.  I am disheartened anytime a director who has failed to deliver a single good movie is handed another script for a film that could have been worth viewing.

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