13 Hours (2016)

(Netflix Streaming, November 2016) Bombastic director Michael Bay tackles real-life military drama in 13 Hours and the overall impression is a surprising “gee, how dull”. Executed as a paean to mercenaries in a bizarre display of patriotism for non-soldiers, this film purports to show what happened in Benghazi, further contributing to the “every American military disaster is a triumphant Hollywood movie in the making” subgenre. In theory, a strong visual director like Bay would be a great choice for presenting the battle of Benghazi in an engaging fashion. In execution, though, it takes a very long time for the movie to show any kind of visual flair, and those swooping drone shots of a battlefield aren’t used as often as they should. The geography of the events isn’t always clear despite efforts to make it so, while the largely undistinguishable bearded men acting as heroes seldom get a chance to express their individuality. It doesn’t help that the script often veers into cartoonish antagonism: Never mind the hordes of faceless foreign attackers—I’m more annoyed by the CIA chief barking at the protagonists like a character who will later repent for his shortsightedness. Working from a fact-based script seemingly hampers Bay, who can’t let loose with his usual brand of bigger-than-life explosions and braggadocio. I’m not a fan of 13 Hours, and I’m not a fan in a more dismissive way than for his awful Transformer movies—13 Hours don’t show enough ambition, enough distinctiveness, and enough moment-to-moment interest. It is, in other words, a dull movie and it’s been a long time since Bay did a dull movie. The contractors who fought in Benghazi would deserve better.

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