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13 Hours - The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi - Michael Bay's Military Fetish ... Pays Off?

Matthew Parkinson | 15 Jan 2016 16:00
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Directed by Michael Bay. Produced by Erwin Stoff and Michael Bay. Written by Chuck Hogan. Release date: January 15, 2016.

It's a little bit shocking that Michael Bay hadn't previously made a movie all about American soldiers shooting bad guys, isn't it? I mean, this is a man who made giant robots the background to military movies in four straight Transformers movies, and it's only now, with his 12th film, that he's finally making a flat-out military film? Does that strike anyone else as odd? I mean, Pearl Harbor came kind of close, but it's nothing compared to 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

This one is based on the terrorist attack on an American diplomatic compound on September 11, 2012, during which time six mercenaries led a defense to save a few dozen lives. As is to be expected, we follow the six men both on an ordinary day, and then the day during which everything seemed to go wrong. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the actual premise of the film - a setup used both to juxtapose the events that happen later with the relative peace at the start, as well as to try to establish these six individuals as flesh-and-bone people to whom we can relate. Well, one of those goals is accomplished.

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Watching a "typical" day at the start makes the hell to come more impactful. It gives the audience perspective - an idea of what usually happens. It's not exactly pretty, but it's nothing like what's going to happen. However, trying to characterize these individuals falls almost entirely flat. They're all bearded white muscular dudes who all have wives and kids back home. About the only one you'll recognize from start to finish is John Krasinski's character, and I couldn't even tell you the character's name without looking it up. The two reasons you'll remember him are (1) it's John Krasinski and (2) his wife is also pregnant - a key difference, to be sure! It's an odd thing, too, because the film isn't really about individuals - it's about a group, and about the military. Trying to characterize them seems like a pointless endeavor.

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