’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ follows the true story of a group of former soldiers who put their lives on the line to defend remaining American diplomats in Libya from an attack by Islamic militants in 2012. The film is directed by everyones favourite Michael Bay and stars John Krasinski in a very dramatic role, far from the comedic characters we are used to seeing him portray. Now i have seen quite a few of these war dramas that tend to touch on the themes of loss, pain, and ptsd associated with war, and some seem to be more successful than others at really conveying these themes in a way that engages you in the story. This one though, didn’t really do that well. There were some personal emotional scenes that were effective and also some standoffs that got a little intense, but overall it felt like one of the more average war dramas of recent years, touching on all the elements that it should focus on but not really excelling at any of them.
One thing i think the film accomplished reasonably well was highlighting some of the more personal conflicts and thoughts that the soldiers would be going through during the events of the film. They did a somewhat effective job at setting up these characters so that you are ready to really care for these guys and be on the edge of your seat when they begin to face danger. But those moments never come, during the last 40 minutes of the movie the film tries to bring out those feelings but it never comes through. And thats where i have to talk about the fact that the conflicts in this film, although they were shot well and were the more engaging scenes in the movie, it lacked any real weight to the situation. Yes i get the fact that the 6 men are vastly outnumbered, but the film did a terrible job at illustrating the fact that they were in any real danger, and so i was simply admiring the beauty of the scenes and not really biting my nails in fear of what may happen. And just so you know, it was a much more subdued version of the action you are used to seeing in Michael Bay’s Transformers films. A lot more easier to follow and wasn’t full of random unexplained explosions, showing that when his hands are tied by facts of an event, he can really do action well.
But this film is definitely not free from the Michael Bay issues a lot of his other films suffer from. The main one being that this movie is just so painstakingly long…. like seriously, this did not have to be anywhere near 144 minutes. It just meant that between the various gun fights the movie was filled with a lot of nothing. You actually feel at times that you have been watching this movie for 4 hours when really it has only been 1 and a half. For a film where the pacing all the way through is really slow, a lot of the filler needed to be cut down to avoid long 20 minutes patches of nothing of interest at all. And that severely hurt my enjoyment of the film, cut the film down to 105 minutes an you could have hit all the same points without boring a majority of viewers. But thats how Bay does his films, so i guess theres no changing that. The slo-mo also makes a comeback and although it is minor, it still doesn’t work and is oddly placed.
But the biggest highlight of the film is by far the acting. The performances from most of the cast was really strong but i mainly have to commend John Krasinski who really proved that he can do the dramatic roles, and do them well. I was able to completely forget the fact that he usually stars in comedies and admire how he was able to really embody this character and show all the emotions he would be feeling. Definitely allowed me to get through the film a little easier.As i mentioned earlier, the last 40 minutes of the film is where the film tries to accumulate all the character setup and emotional weight into one sequence but it wasn’t effective in doing that. But if you are able to stick with the film until this point, it does finish on a slightly positive note, by giving you something that you can still enjoy just due to the nature of the scene and context of what is going on. But in the end, if you are a fan of Michaels Bays movies you will get a lot more out of this film than most other people, it just looks like his best days are behind him.