IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 144 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
In 2012, Benghazi, Libya, is named one of the most dangerous places in the world and countries have pulled their embassies out of the city in fear of an attack by militants. The US, however, keeps a Special Mission open, while less than a mile away is a not-so-secret CIA outpost called The Annex, which is protected by six Special Forces operators who have been ordered to never engage the citizens to avoid conflict with possible militants in the area. The U.S. Ambassador to Libya J. Christopher Stevens turns up to try to help the situation. Despite warnings, Stevens decides to stay at the Special Mission with limited protection. On the morning and the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks, he notices suspicious men taking pictures of the compound….
In a similar situation to what happened with Pain And Gain, Michael Bay insisted that he be allowed to make this movie in return for doing the next Transformers sequel. Based on the book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi by Mitchell Zuckoff, Bay bring a true story to the screen and uses it basically as an excuse for lots and lots of shooting and explosions. He does, though, tone down some of his excesses, revealing that he may have grown up just a little. The film even has a resourceful female character who doesn’t exist to show off her ass, while the script does not take the obvious opportunity to lay blame at any single individual in the US government for its heroes being ordered to ‘stand down’ and not being sent air support, leaving them to fend off hundreds of Libyans with just the help of a few others. Some of the supposed facts have been disputed, but the film still leaves you with anger at our incompetent and callous politicians, and with great respect for our men on the ground. It even ignores the expected flag waving; in fact, if anything, the film leans slightly to the left, though it generally avoids politics and concentrates on the action.
The build-up is very well managed while the ensuring mayhem feels quite realistic despite the usual dodgy digital explosions. Typically for a Bay film, the camera moves almost constantly for long stretches, helping to provide a tremendously fast pace despite the somewhat excessive length, and the editing isn’t as ludicrously fast as many other filmmakers doing this kind of thing like to give us, but unfortunately Bay seems to have now totally fallen in love with shakycam, making some sequences genuinely unpleasant to watch. It’s a great shame that a filmmaker who, whatever his faults, was formerly such a good director of action, has seen fit to increase the usage of this odious technique in much of his recent work and now uses it throughout his latest movie, though at least moments of calm are nice and steady. Chuck Hogan’s screenplay only really allows us to get to know one of the major characters, John Krasinski’s Jack De Silva, which means that we don’t get to care about most of them as much as we should, though there are some nice bits of dialogue here and there. The film also seems to take forever to conclude. Still, it’s often bed-wettingly tense and very exciting….at least when you’re trying to hardest not to feel sick.