The Good Side of Michael Bay – 13 Hours (2016)

In the trenches.  Inspired by true events, this is about a small group of soldiers in Benghazi in 2012.  Nobody knows they are stationed there, so when an American diplomatic compound one mile away from them gets attacked, they are quite literally the only ones who can help, but it would require compromising their cover.  I have a love/hate relationship with Michael Bay.  He’s got talent, but he just chooses not to use it more often than not, which is why I get frustrated with him.  I would be totally fine with the Transformers series ceasing to exist, but I do tend to enjoy Bay’s smaller projects where he can pull back and subdue, like The Rock or the hilariously insane Pain & Gain.  13 Hours is a more inspired offering from Bay, and while it isn’t perfect, it does have plenty of good going for it.

2And it features a ripped John Krasinski.

You can make comparisons to a number of different video games, as this is pretty close to being Call of Duty: Modern Warfare: The Movie, and it would be hard to make a counterargument.  It’s very much a war movie with modern weaponry, and it’s made by the patriotic Michael Bay, so you know this is going to have plenty of flag waving.  Regardless, this movie does a great job of putting you right there in the moment.  Even in the quieter parts, it always feels like it is just a wrong dialogue exchange away from everything going completely wrong, so it stays tense for practically the entire movie, playing out like a macho, less cerebral Sicario.  It gets intense during the thick of the action, and one of the most interesting elements to this is the chaos and confusion these guys have to deal with.  The city isn’t completely filled with extremist enemies, and there are natives that are sided with the Americans.  That said, there is no sound way of telling who is who, and it creates this engaging dynamic where you can never trust anyone, even if they just told you that they are on your side.

1I think it is hilarious how they got both Jim and Roy from The Office on the same team.

All positives aside, this is not a perfect film.  This is a cast that is made up of almost entirely bros, but it makes sense, given the fact that everybody here is military.  However, in the heat of the action, it can be hard to tell all these manly beaded men apart.  It is a bit of a challenge to take Krasinski seriously, as he typically plays the straight man who mugs for the camera, but he does do well enough here.  My biggest complaint about this is that it runs about 30 minutes too long, and you feel the length.  I don’t know what I would necessarily cut out, but if this fell in the 2 hour range, it would be a tighter, more compact story.  Still, I feel positive enough about 13 Hours to give it a decent recommendation.

13 Hours (2016) ***1/2

– Critic for Hire


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