By Kyle G. King. Between republicans shouting conspiracy over a lack of executive action and democrats crying lies about a lack of stand-down orders, the details surrounding the 2012 Benghazi attacks have been vigorously mashed into a cacophony of distracting scapegoat tactics. Nearly four years after the incident, American politics remain off-base, more concerned about the private email servers that tracked the events than they are with providing the American public with any sense of clarity regarding what the hell actually happened. Michael Bay, in either a delusional bid to provide that clarity or a delusional bid to assert himself as a politically-minded filmmaker (there’s also the more perplexing proposition that he’s attempting both), runs wild with 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.
Ever the master of maximal cinema (to the max), Bay attempts to harness the yellow ribbon fervor that catapulted 2014’s American Sniper into hearts of freedom-loving patriots nationwide with yet another violent “true story” of American heroism. Though the use of the word true is actually quite deceiving: a story this saturated in vague, unconfirmed, and even classified details demands the highest level of artistic license to gracefully fill in the blanks. Unfortunately for the American movie-goer not hypnotized by the hogwash from Fox News, Bay’s artistic license lacks the security clearance that this particular subject matter demands.
The faceless onslaught of Libyan nationalists (with expansive character names like “Attacker at Embassy #2”, “Attacker at House #1”, and leading Libyan star “Tracksuit Militiaman”) all make for the film’s obvious antagonists, but the broader enemy of the film’s white-guys-with-beards turns out to be their own overly-liberal government. As the hero team of contracted security detail — with similarly silly names like Oz (Max Martini), Tig (Dominic Fumusa), Boon (David Denman), Tanto (Pablo Schreiber), Rone (James Badge Dale), and leading everyman Jack (a buffed up, bearded John Krasinski) — all suit up for a rescue mission into the under-siege Libyan American Embassy, they’re tangled up with gaining clearance to leave their CIA outpost. With a bright yellow highlighter, Bay and screenwriter Chuck Hogan take time to chagrin any Hillary Clinton supporters (who the right-wing blame for the executive hiccup), and rally any Americans who have ever uttered the mantra, “they’re trying to take away our guns!”. Though her name is never mentioned, the release date of a movie drenched in pro-military agendas — just before the Iowa caucus and New Hampshire primary — hails its own sort of political conspiracy theory.
Once Team Grizzly Adams finally does break free of their bureaucratic shackles, the Bayhem finally kicks into maximum overdrive. After as many American biceps and six-pack abs are thrust onto the screen as possible, mounted machine guns rip through the flesh of measly Libyan bodies. The heroes then make their way through the streets of Benghazi both by foot and by Mercedes (the product placement ain’t quiet), and indeed at street level the chaos of warfare is difficult to navigate. But what winds up in the final cut of 13 Hours is a film that is pure chaos for nothing but the sake of chaos. Bay doesn’t bother laying down who is where geographically or even emotionally — if they have a beard and a keffiyeh scarf: they’re bad, if they a beard and night vision goggles: they’re good.
Though it could in fact explain the film’s central hitch of pure disarray, any argument citing that 13 Hours imitates the “fog of war” would only prove that Bay’s chief concern is not intelligence, but merely image crafting (the same vanity that shamed the alleged stand-down orders to begin with). Michael Bay instead presents a movie that condemns the American government’s executive disorder with his very own brand of cinematic disorder. The only secret left to ponder is who at Paramount is on the GOP’s mailing list.
Directed by Michael Bay.
Produced by Michael Bay and Erwin Stoff.
Screenplay by Chuck Hogan.
Based on 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff.
Starring James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini, Dominic Fumusa, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Toby Stephens, and Freddie Stroma.
2.5 out of 10 (mostly for the hot bods)