13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Screen 15 articles

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

2016

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Poster
  • The lengthy attack sequence itself is, for Bay, fairly well-done, though finally pretty dull in all its subwoofer-busting chaos... Doubtful Bay will ever come to realize that his movies are blotches on the very American spirit he intends to exalt. At least his dehumanizing delusion is so total that we can always safely know where he stands.

  • It's the faintest of praise to call 13 Hours one of Bay's best works, given a résumé dominated by Transformers movies, but his narrow perspective and fidelity to the timeline keeps most of his juvenile fetishes in check… For Bay, the murky context of history isn't worth thinking about—yesterday's tragedies are today's passable action fodder.

  • Bay delivers the story with crude melodramatic thrusts; his main interest is the fraternal bonding of male warriors whose mutual devotion equals their patriotism. The film’s overarching theme is intervention fatigue—a contemptuous indifference to distant conflicts in which, he suggests, no American lives should be wasted.

  • Made to ride on the surprisingly populist tails of Clint Eastwood’s (great) American Sniper, Bay’s garish shoot-em-up lacks all the ambiguity and melancholy of that film, going all out to frame these troopers as unequivocal heroes who just love their country.

  • The conflict between Bay's respect for the men he profiles and his natural inclination toward simple-minded cliché results in early scenes that struggle for a level of focus that's almost necessitated by the film's added patina of topicality.

  • “Downtime’s the worst; the adrenaline leaves and my mind just starts to wander,” says CIA security contractor Jack Silva (John Krasinski) about two-thirds of the way through 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi, inadvertently summing up what’s wrong with Michael Bay’s latest, a cool 90-minute action flick padded out into a lumbering ooh-rah male weepie…. Overlong and at times ponderous… 13 Hours is also, in stretches, about as pure an action movie as Bay is likely to make.

  • The movie is a pummeling slog — 45 minutes of setup and an eternity of relentless combat. So it’s a relief when the director Michael Bay, amid this bleak fusillade, provides a little zigzagging action-movie-style relief. You can’t help but admire how well the truck holds up with its wheels aflame, like a 21st-century chariot of fire.

  • Sight & Sound: Adam Nayman
    February 05, 2016 | March 2016 Issue (p. 88)

    It is basically a siege film, with crack-shot heroes using faceless hordes of insurgents for target practice. On those grounds, it's impressively effective – and probably honest to the perspectives of the men whose story it tells. But Bay has no sense of politics, or tragedy. Instead of a thoughtful meditation on heroism and sacrifice, we get something that feels like American Sniper with its uneasy insides scooped out.

  • The Other is Other-ed throughout - Arabs are shifty, unreliable, "all bad guys until they're not" - but the mix of images has an Oliver Stone-ish urgency, going from panoramic to startlingly intimate and the camera always re-framing. It's just way, way too long, though.

  • 13 Hours, in its centerpiece siege, has the best action sequences since Fury Road; its rhythmic editing and command of space are thrilling. But that it takes a partisan propaganda issue and exploits it for blunt force drama is at best deeply irresponsible, even if this is the closest Bay has come to, ya know, giving a shit about people since the 90s.

  • What it is, with a tantalizing and very uncomfortable relish that shouldn’t come as a surprise from Bay, is a formally stunning portrait of a tactical nightmare and a brutish, bruising display of equally unsurprisingly powerful and immersive action filmmaking. Love him or hate him, where action is concerned Bay is probably the greatest technical craftsman at the studio level outside of Cameron or Mann, and 13 Hours represents the height of his skill.

  • 13 Hours is bloody, graphic and intense, effective in a blunt-trauma way… [It] comes so close to being action entertainment that it made me a little queasy. It’s violent, but also weirdly detached from all-too-recent history. You could easily imagine someone adapting a video game from it, if someone isn’t at work on one already.

  • It may be hard to imagine a film more gaudily self-evident in its values and the force of its aesthetics as the sprawling effects goliath and techno-anti-humanist Transformers: Age of Extinction, but in fact Bay’s most tidily budgeted and CGI free films of recent years, 2013’s true crime Pain & Gain and this year’s true war 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi are his most honest and perceptive, and, because of this, his best.

  • Though I still don't believe Bay's work overall measures up to the comparable techno-fragmented action fantasies of the late, great Tony Scott, it's complex enough to keep me agonizingly curious. (Not curious enough to be a Bay completist, though.) I think there are interesting things done with visual, spatial, and rhythmic aspects. 13 HOURS is also mawkish, but honestly, not as bad in that regard as I'd feared it would be.

  • 13 Hours is one combat movie that doesn’t blink—and it doesn’t gloat, either. Like Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down, it’s the rare contemporary war film in which every wound hurts. Even when the men take pleasure in “kicking the ass” of the enemy, they express relief more than triumph… What’s remarkable about Bay’s work in this movie is its bracing clarity about chaos. Every choice he makes adds texture to the portrait of a warrior’s code practiced in absurd extremes.

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