By Phillip Guy Ellis (Northampton, England)
Genre – Action > War
Run Time – 2 hr 24 minutes
Certificate – 18
Country – U.S.A
Oscars – 1 Nomination
Awards – 4 Nominations
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So 11 years after 911 and the Arab Spring rages, young people deciding and then plotting on social media that it was time to kickback against their western backed dictators. Publicly America encouraged revolution but privately they were worried. Expensive structures were in place in the Middle East to secure cheap oil to the west and this uprising introduced chaos into that delicate political balance. America certainly didn’t want Assad to lose Syria because of the Russian equation but would quite like Libya to fall, long since booted out of there by Gadaffi, significant gas and oil reserves just below the sand. The Middle East is a game you have to have a counter on the board, even if you don’t want to play.
13 Hours is the story of America’s return after Gadaffi fell but fairly rapid exit soon after, resulting in a big political attack on Obama’s Democrats for the US embassy complex attack in Benghazi in 2012. The Republicans felt they could score points against then Defense Secretary Hilary Clinton for what seemed like pre warnings of the attack that were not acted upon. So, with such a politically sensitive political bungle in recent American history would bombastic Michael Bay be as equally cack-handed as the CIA directing it? The answer is no, not really.
Bay said he was attracted to the project because he’d used veterans in all of his films, as actors and technical advisors, and felt he would be uniquely qualified to tell their story. As it turned that was a good thing as this film is clearly a tribute to them and not so much about the politics, which makes this such a good watch. We did not need another Syriana and posturing liberals like George Clooney. Bay does Action movies and this was real life and heroic action by US military personnel and so that was the film to be made.
• James Badge Dale….as Tyrone S. “Rone” Woods, commander of the GRS team
• John Krasinski…. as Jack Silva, newest member of the GRS team
• Max Martini… as Mark “Oz” Geist, GRS team member
• Dominic Fumusa…. as John “Tig” Tiegen, GRS team member
• Pablo Schreiber…. as Kris “Tanto” Paronto, GRS team member
• David Denman…. as Dave “Boon” Benton, GRS team member
• Toby Stephens…. as Glen “Bub” Doherty, GRS officer in Tripoli
• Matt Letscher…. as Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens
• Davide Tucci as Defence Attaché
• Alexia Barlier as Sona Jillani, an undercover CIA officer in Libya.
• Freddie Stroma as Brit Vayner, an undercover CIA officer in Libya
• David Costabile as “Bob” aka. “The Chief”, the Benghazi CIA Chief-of-Station.
• Peyman Moaadi as Amahl, a local interpreter.
• David Giuntoli as Scott Wickland, DSS agent.
• Demetrius Grosse as Dave Ubben, DSS agent.
• David Furr as Alec, DSS agent.
• Gábor Bodis as CIA agent, security officer
• Wrenn Schmidt as Becky Silva, wife of Jack Silva
Benghazi, Libya is one of the most dangerous places in the world, and countries have pulled their diplomatic offices out of the country in fear of an attack by the many warring militia groups vying for control of the coastal city. America, however, is not going anywhere with all that oil in the ground and has maintained its diplomatic compound (not an official consulate) in the city. In support of that, less than a mile away is a top secret CIA base called “The Annex”, which is protected by a team of private military contractors from Global Response Staff (GRS), their job to support important American interests in Libya
Bearded and seasoned contractor Jack Silva (John Krasinski) is a new recruit to the GRS team tasked with protecting the diplomatic compound, picked up from the airport by Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale), commander of the team and a big mate of Silva. After running into some hassle with local militias, they arrive at the Annex edgy but ready, Silva introduced to the rest of the GRS team and the CIA Chief of Station, Bob Myers (David Costabile), who constantly gives the team strict reminders to never engage the citizens as this is not yet their war. Most of those civilians, though, seemed to be heavily armed and ready for that war.
The US State Department decides they need to return a U.S. Ambassador to the city, Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher), an experienced diplomat drawing the short straw, arriving in Benghazi to maintain diplomatic connections amidst the political and social chaos (securing those oil deals). Despite warnings, Stevens decides to stay at the Special Mission compound with limited security on his request, Diplomatic Security (DS) agents Scott Wickland (David Giuntoli) and Dave Ubben (Demetrius Grosse) tasked as his body guards, a run in downtown with some suspicious locals a stark reminder of the dangers.
To guard the gates of the compound they have hired from the local Martyrs Brigade militia, nicknamed “17-Feb”. But on the morning of the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Stevens notices suspicious men taking pictures of the compound and notifies his security detail. That night a group of militants from Ansar al-Sharia attack the compound. The local guards quickly surrender their posts and leg it, allowing the attackers to steam in through the gates and lay waste to the compound. The DS team tries to lock down the main building as Wickland takes the ambassador into the safe room. Unable to breach that safe room, the attackers set the building on fire hoping to burn the men out, the ambassador a big prize. Wickland is able to escape the fire but loses Stevens as the militia back off and regroups.
Wickland –’I need your eyes and ears – not your mouth!
Back at the Annex, fully aware of the attacks, the GRS team desperately wants to go to the compound to help. But the Chief repeatedly refuses. The CIA are officially not in Libya and this action would burn their location and identity. There won’t be much help coming from US forces either. But the contractors can hold back no more and defy orders; a convoy of black SUV’s racing across town to the burning complex. But if the compound can fall then so can the annex, as the militia head to the CIA compound with that in mind as its defensive detail are still bewildered back at the complex. This is exactly why the station chief didn’t want them to go.
Silva: I mean seriously guys. If the consulate ordered a f^^king pizza it would’ve been there by now.
This is definitely one of those films the critics were enjoying but uncomfortable in saying so. They were clearly expecting something else and less bombastic but, fair play; Bay said no, this is what you are getting. There will be no George Clooney and no liberal whining over American foreign policy. We ‘bleeped’ up.
Its $50 million budget only pulled back $69 million so it’s not what everyone wanted and one of those films that was neither pitched as an action movie or a political biopic and so missed the big audience…testosterone pumped young men. This film is not that interested in the blame game politics it probably needed to be and an action movie in all but name and really rather good. We know Bay likes to blow everything up, including the set, and he does exactly that here.
One sniffy critic commented that ‘the title should give you some idea of how long this two-and-a-half hour film really feels’. The original cut of the film was four hours long. But this is gripping stuff and after a slow first half-hour of scene setting and side picking, the two dimensional Arabs all presented as stubble wearing fanatics and the American military bearded chest bumping iron pumping righteous heroes, the film gets going as the raid begins. But the real tension comes in the final hour as the military guys have to defend attack after attack on the annex and every Libyan a potential enemy. There is a real truth to that dynamic as many American soldiers returning from Iraq, a lot of them joining up to win college credits (free tuition fees), simply open fired on civilians where the shots were coming from to simply reduce their chances of being hit by return fire.
It picked up just 5 award nominations across the various film festivals but one of those was an Oscar nomination for best sound. What Bay does well is cinematography and that big sound and he makes his films a spectacle. I quite liked Transformers and surprised he gets the stick he does for his films. Ok, the sequels were formulaic but he proves with 13 Hours that he can do more edgy stuff. Some of the special effects are surprisingly thrilling here and who doesn’t want a super slow motion mortar impact just behind a CIA guy’s backside?
IMDb.com – 7.3/10.0 (88,234votes)
Rottentomatos.com – 50% critic’s approval
Metacritic.com – 48% critic’s approval
Times UK – ‘13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a movie for anyone who saw The Hurt Locker and thought, “You know what would make this really good? If they got six really muscley dudes with machineguns to come in and blow away all the Arabs.”
Independent – ‘It’s undeniably spectacular in its own juddering, pyrotechnical, Armageddon-ish fashion, but it’s also a film that leads a very rancid taste’.
Filmfare – ‘There’s plenty to cheer about and nothing really to reflect upon or celebrate. Save for the fact that, Bay had good intentions while making this movie based on real events’.
Empire Magazine – ‘Bay squanders the potential to explore the nuances of a politically sensitive issue and instead descends into a gruesome display of war porn’.
The Mail – ‘Bay chooses to pander, by promoting a worldview that has no room for intellect or compassion, and reinforcing stereotypes. 13 Hours is a film made with no thought to its larger consequences’.
Daily Telegraph – ‘Everything you’d expect from Bay is here with bells on – the macho provocation, the sound and fury, and the diabolical pleasure in reducing everything to rubble and bloody mush’.
Little White Lies – ‘It’s all so hateful. Hates women. Hates talking. Hates tact. Loves guns’.