13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI (2016) Review
Directed by Michael Bay
Michael Bay directs yet again another big action film that allows him to do explosions more than the scene needed. But we have to give it to him that when it comes to that, he’s one of the experts in blowing things up in a beautifully captured cinematic way. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is based on a true story but the film obviously made things look pleasing to the eyes except for some gory scenes that’s jaw-dropping and spine-chilling.
In 2012, Benghazi is named one of the most dangerous places on Earth, all the embassies have pulled out in fear of war against the militants. But the US keeps an off the books Consulate called The Annex which is protected by six CIA security contractors, formerly Special Forces operators. John Krasinski enters as the new recruit Jack Da Silva who arrives in Benghazi and picked up by “Rone” Woods played by James Badge Dale. The two have known each other before, Rone and Jack arrives at The Annex and was introduced to all the other allies there and was warned not to engage to avoid conflict with the militants.
Their job is to secure non-Libyan allies in their business in encouraging Libyans to embrace the possibility of co-existing in peace and leave all the differences behind like all other war movies. Though the militants doesn’t have the option of peace with the Americans or with the other countries, just them. The US Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens played by Matt Letscher arrives at Benghazi to reassure peace in the city by holding a low-key speech which turned into a press conference by the number of media that arrived. He stays in a compound that is all fancy but has limited security and is a mile away from the Annex making it hard for backups if unfortunate events such as an ambush occurs.
On the morning of the eleventh of September which is the anniversary of the 9-11 attack, the ambassador notices some police and locals taking pictures of the compound suspiciously, so he reported it but the suspicious locals have already left. Bay makes things effectively suspenseful, building something from its settings not from its characters. Effective but not genuine. And as always, the calm before the storm, the team communicates with their families and Da Silva finds out his wife is pregnant with their third child. Exciting as it may be, he needed an inspiration to live more than ever.
Later that night, a group of militants broke and attacked the compound of the ambassador, killing most of the Americans and their allies. Some, who are not fighting back are not killed, whether they are told not to or it’s just a mistake. Either way, it looks like a killing spree for the Islamic militants. The American are forced to trap themselves inside, the ambassador with two others in the restroom. While the doors are blocked by railings that cannot be opened or broken, the militants spilled gas and lit the place on fire making the ambassador and his co-survivors ran out of the restroom because it was being consumed by smoke.
The team at The Annex, after trying to convince to go and help the others in the compound finally gets there and help infiltrate the militants. One of the ambassador’s security service got out and was rescued by the American team but he lost ambassador Stevens, though the team called for backup for help, the chief refuses as he’s fearful of what their actions might do to the militants. The team retreated back to The Annex but the first car with the survivors are followed by the militants to The Annex. Everything here is done in a Michael Bay standard action sequences and even the sound effects are like the ones in Transformers which made everything feels similar to his recent films.
The attack in The Annex is imminent, everyone followed protocol, packing what’s needed and gets in the safest place possible inside the Annex. Meanwhile, Glen “Bub” Doherty, a Global Response Staff forms a team to help the ones in Benghazi but takes too long for them to arrive because of multiple reasons. War starts, Da Silva’s team is on the winning side as they overcome the first two waves of militants attacking The Annex. Doherty and his team finally arrives at The Annex but the fight wasn’t over yet. More and more from different sides of The Annex, militants are pouring out, a deadly mortar attack are dropped in their position leading to Woods and Doherty and Oz losing his hands.
But as they lose hope, the Libyan military allies’ shows up and help them travel from The Annex to the airport. They also find out that Stevens was found dead behind the compound due to smoke inhalation. The team, though heroic as their actions, reflected that their efforts cannot be recognized as they are off the books, that even though they’ve saved lives and theirs was gambled through their heroic acts, none of it will make sense to those above them.
The film basically wants to have the hero vibe for the men who fought hundreds of terrorists in an unbelievable and glorious way and it somehow delivered it, though not in the most satisfying way. The film ended with a strong message, that no one is a winner in war. But like most recent Michael Bay films, the film offers a less personal approach even with the life and death situations being presented. It may have suspenseful sequences and some impressive explosion scenes but it did not feel genuine as it didn’t mind to go deeper to its characters. Most of the conversations felt like a rest from all the explosions and gun firing sequences it mainly offers.
2.5 OUT OF 5 STARS
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is now showing in Philippine cinemas nationwide from United International Pictures Philippines released through Columbia Pictures. Rated R-13 by the MTRCB.