“All of the gods, all of the heavens, and all of the hells are within you.”
An American Ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya as a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.
Have you ever wondered what it would be like? What it would be like to see The Dukes of Hazard riding into battle against a bunch of brown people in the General Lee, waiving the American and confederate flags, whistlin’ dixie, hootin and hollerin’, setting off red white and blue fireworks, firing off automatic weapons in the air, wearing “I Hate Hillary” and “Donald Trump is my co-pilot” tee shirts, throwing grenades, all while stuffing nerds into lockers and chucking footballs? Well Michael Bay’s new film 13 hours might be the closest we ever get to that “America rocks” PSA. Bay, not known for subtlety, abandons all restraint here and angles for a full throttled, dim witted, narrow minded, and borderline racist story, complete with all the bells and whistles that he regularly incorporates in his lavish productions. Creating a very simple, very straight forward war movie, about a subject that is anything but, which leads to an insensitive take on a story better suited in more deft hands than his.
The story behind the Benghazi attacks is very complex, with so many moving parts, and geopolitical narratives, that it would be difficult for any storyteller to translate it through the medium of film. It is a subject perhaps better saved for documentary style cinema or even non network television. Unfortunately for us, Michael Bay decided to give us his take, his very masculine, short sighted take. As if his films were to reside in a universe all their own, Michael Bay plays fast and loose with the facts, muddling up any real insight in cannon fodder and saturated images of patriotism. Visually, 13 Hours lives up to the hype. It is loud and fast and big. It is the pure definition of “Bayhem” that we have come to expect. The film is a visual feast of explosions and grandstanding, complete with a score that builds in all the right moments, manipulating the audience to follow lockstep, keying us all in on when it’s time to cheer, and this film is certainly not devoid of rah rah moments. It seems with each passing frame we are met with one of our heroes standing tall making some sort of regressive one liner, then pausing for a moment, as if Bay is standing in the theater with you, nudging you, urging you to cheer for good ol ‘Merica.
Perhaps what is so depressing about this film, is the idea of what could have been. The performances are actually searingly intense and as layered as the very shallow script would
allow. James Badge Dale is revelatory in his portrayal of team leader Tyrone. He commands attention, and oozes charisma at every turn. John Krasinski follows suit, giving his heart to his character, in spite of the script doing everything it can to gloss over the real issues at hand, and trying to manipulate the audience constantly. The rest of our cast settles into their very one note roles with ease, proving to be halfway decent springboards to bounce generic humor off of. The issues lie within all of the missed opportunities. Bay tries, he gives real effort to provide sincere and honest moments, but ultimately resorts back to his comfort zone, relying on bloated and overblown theatrics to drive home his very ethnocentric points.
The screenplay may have perhaps been the root of all concern. Failing to provide vital context, we are left to villainize the natives, in all of their forms, even going so far as to have one character spout the line “They’re all bad till their not.” Its this sort of unintentionally insensitive schlock from which this film is over wrought, that diminishes the true events and real heroes. The writer and director have no problem identifying who the good guys are and who the bad guys are, boldly pointing out that everyone who is not us (that is to say American), is our enemy. This sort of racially charged undertone settles just beneath the films surface and never dissipates. 13 Hours sets out to makes its protagonists heroes, and it does so in kind, making them superheroes, but not human beings. Lacking any profound moments of true intelligible sincerity, Bay reduces these soldiers to little more than robots, say for the random bits of expository emotion we are given regarding their families. The film is meant to have broader context and depth, but the director pummels you with aimless action and gargantuan set pieces, meant to draw oohs and aahs from the audience.
13 Hours is a film meant for those who are looking for a loud and fast action movie, through most of which you will spend little time thinking about silly things like motivations, the political and geopolitical environment, basic developed context, and, well.. Facts. The problem is that this is a story that is worth telling, if told right. Michael Bay is not the right man in this case. What is so upsetting regarding this murky at best fictionalized version of a true conflict, is that if it were just a generic action film, it would have actually been quite good. Technically speaking, the film is masterful in its execution of the combat. It is fun and big and maybe even at times, though manipulative, compelling. However this is a story based on real life events, that lacks all focus. Bay succeeds in presenting the heroism of the men involved, but also reigns down disdain for everyone else. This is a movie for those who are not too hung up on things like facts. We are meant to leave the politics at the door, and as a result we are left with a simpleminded, shallow, action-centric film, about men doing manly things, from the king of masculinity, and master of overkill.
2.2/5 Do Better Bro