13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – 3.5/5 – Movie Reviews by Ry!

13 hours13 hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – 3.5/5 – True stories are always the ones that garner an extra eye when I review.  When a film tackles any kind of real world event; you have to take into consideration all that encompasses the facts.  At the most heartfelt of sensations; one thing I notice at the forefront is how relevant the story can be.  13 hours is a story that’s very real and speculated from either side on both sides of the coin.  For all that is part of the story; my review is always struck to the ‘film’ itself and the experience of watching it on the big screen.  I leave my criticism to what it is; a movie.  13 hours captures the essences of the real world events while also putting the audience in a realistic setting of soldiers left alone to protect Americans.  With some decent acting, stylistic direction and realistic action; 13 hours is both heart pounding and revealing on any scale.  Michael Bay may be in the doghouse for a lot of people, but by the end of this one, you see his talents shine at its finest.

Premise:  Based on a true events; a security team is left on their own to survive the chaos of Benghazi

This movie doesn’t have your typical main character(s).  With an ‘ensemble’ kind of approach, there is a lot more emphasize on the situation more than character development.  Even with the ‘lack thereof’ approach, there are two characters that are placed as the focal rod for the story’s progression.   The two characters are:

John Krasinski as Jack Silva

James Badge Dale – Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods

These two individuals do a good job in provide a great focal point for the story.  Watching them from the onset you see two men that are enraptured within their choice of going to Benghazi for work.  You see the complexion of ‘tough’ individuals that have been molded from their previous careers in the military.  Being hired as private contractors by the CIA; you get to see unique interactions between the two and the rest of the cast.  While not having the depth/structure like other great military films; these two do a great job in providing characters that have the ideals of brotherhood, family values and leadership (when needed).  It gives a sense of strength at times in the film; helping added slight value to their expositional moments.  It shows that fragile balance between doing what is needed while under dire complexion of this ambiguous situation.  With the rest of the cast; they fall into that typical arch of standard caricatures of any other military film.  You have the rest of military soldiers, CIA agents, local residents and terrorist.  Even with planting people for plot purposes, the common archetypes do not fray the film’s enjoyment.  Ironically, it allows the ‘story’ take a delicate approach and mold along lines of ‘what, why and how’ things occur.  The ‘non-depth’ works in favor of these side characters, providing a pinpoint to flesh out an understanding of those questions.

The direction is very straightforward.  Being a Michael Bay film; you would expect certain ‘things’ when he brings a story to the big screen.  This is a film (going in); you would expect to see those ‘things’.  There are times (though) when Bay allows the story to endure above his stylized approach to creating ‘visual noise’ upon the action of intent.  With this film having a ‘true story’ element, he allows the film to be enraptured in the basics of those events.  You still see his stylistic complexion (explained later).  Letting the film unfold in an organic fashion brings the audience something worth gravitating to.  You are more in tuned into the nature of the story than just a false recreation of sorts.  The film goes as followed:

First Act – Introduction to characters, plot directives and ‘situational’ setup of the Ambassador, paramilitary group, CIA agents and ‘terrorist’.

Second Act – ‘Real World’ events connect through linearity.  Thematic situations occur within the chaotic nature of encounters.  A combination of instinct, value and honor ripple through the cast.

Third Act – Face Off between Americans and terrorist; some stylistic actions mixed in with raw encounters within a mixture of tactical execution, realistic shootouts and visceral outcomes.  Fallout and typical military epilogue,

The story falls along this basic outline of the three acts.  You have an ‘exploratory’ nature in the beginning; allowing the ‘pawns on the chess board’ to move into their situations.  Expositions are quick as characters are brought to an ‘understanding’ like point to move the story along.  As the film moves; it strikes that common linearity approach.  The linear style brings in another layer to build up the final confrontation.  What you have is as followed:

‘Plot point’ A happens > incursion occurs > ‘Plot point’ B created with a rinse/repeat

The intensity is built through realism and the interactions of the characters.  As this is a Bay film; you will still see wrinkles of what makes him a divisive director.  In this film, there is slight emphasize (at times) on those common ‘Bay-isms’.  You have the awkward ‘comedic’ timing, shaky camera and ‘overuse’ of lighting and unneeded focal points.  This fragments the pacing at times by having some forced expositions in the later part of the film.  Even so, once we get to the final standoff with the terrorist and the climax; it is both fitting and heart wrenching.  The outcome becomes a tragic and slightly raw experience.  Once the epilogue brings us to the final credits, it gives you an on look of what is the meaning of sacrifice from both sides.  There is some understanding of what it takes it to survive what became a chaotic place in the world.

The cinematography takes on that pure sensationalized approach.  The director allows for the exotic locale to become part of the story.  It breathes life into the situation through the use of strong ‘over exposure’ of colors and lighting.  This brings out the grittiness and horror of the ongoing chaos.  Action is subdued to a grounded approach, allowing ‘gunfights’ to be ‘gunfights’.  This captures the essence of the overall story. The score is the common sounds you find any action film.  Loud and resounding; there isn’t anything here that adds to the pulse of the intensity.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a film brimmed with raw ambiguity within an adrenaline ride.  Bay might have his low points for other films; but he shines most with stories like this.  If you’re a fan of military films or true story events; this is one for you. Worth going to the theaters, have your popcorn ready.

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