13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi: Film Review
Cast: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman
Director: Michael Bay
With a more restrained touch and a degree of maturity, director Michael Bay's more excessive touches appear reined in in this film based on a true story.
When a US ambassador's compound is over-run in Benghazi after several waves of terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2012, it falls to six defence military contractors to try and save the day.
But, as this sat in direct opposition to orders from their CIA chief, the men felt doing the right thing was more important than bureaucracy, and put their lives on the line for 13 hours.
With the likes of American Sniper and Lone Survivor blazing the trail for homegrown hero stories, and coupled with the master of Bayhem at the helm, you'd expect that 13 Hours would be an all guts, all glory, guns blazing type of affair.
But what Michael Bay has done - despite characterisation of the men being more than a little lacking - is craft something tense which transcends its Call Of Duty: Benghazi potential and which delivers taut suspense that's as close to enthralling as any base under siege story can match.
Sure, it hits the tropes and cliches of the genre thanks to scenes of the guys bonding and reaching out to loved ones just prior to fateful events going down as well as its occasionally cliched dialogue, but as it ratchets up to its sickening end, it remains a compelling watch. It's largely thanks to a controlled level of chaos and a major dose of mistrust that you're never quite sure who's on the right side as the team of six snake their way through the streets - the powderkeg does blow but Bay manages to prolong it to keep you guessing where and when it will go off.
As the leads, The Office star John Krasinki (all buff and beardsy) and James Badge Dale imbue their weary contractor characters with an appeal that will see you empathising with them and hoping they make it, despite their having cursory slight back-story.
But it's Michael Bay who delivers the biggest surprise here with his usual patriotic and jingoistic fare, all wrapped in a hyper-real colour palette and complete with compulsory final shot American flag motif in place - dialled down a bit more than usual. Granted, the men hardly stand apart from each other and when the emotional moments inevitably come, it makes it hard for them to be sympathised with as you're not sure who's been taken down.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi may be close to war porn at times, but it never falls short of delivering a tense experience that's heart in its mouth gripping from the moment the action begins.