The movie “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is a film that by all the laws of film shouldn’t work, but somehow manages to pull it off.
It is directed by Michael Bay, whose film resume is more of a long rap sheet of high-octane thrills that generally leave the brains completely out of the picture. That combined with the January release date, which in Hollywood is where bad movies go to die in the after-holiday slump, left me going into the movie without high expectations.
I was pleasantly surprised.
Not that “13 Hours” is perfect by any means. The first hour is only tolerable. It feels like your average Hollywood action movie that has stuff like tough guys talking smack about the bad guys while shirtlessly working out.
But then there is a giant shift. All of a sudden the characters and the audience realize: This is real, and it’s really not good.
From that moment, the action is nonstop. That’s because the danger never lets up. From the moment the U.S. compound is attacked to just five minutes before the credits roll, the tension is ongoing. The situation also goes from “dude, that’s not good” to “well, it’s been nice knowing you.”
It stops feeling like “Transformers” and feels more like last year’s “American Sniper.” The actions of the characters seem slightly less Hollywoodized and more realistic.
And that goes for the acting, especially from John Krasinski, who plays Jack Silva. As the film progresses, he feels more and more like an actual character rather than just a bearded guy running around with a really big gun. Krasinski looks and behaves almost nothing like his most famous role of Jim Halpert from “The Office.” That is, until he gets emotional; then you see it in his eyes and face as he tries to hold back the tears.
However solid the last hour is, it’s still too much on the long side, by about 30 minutes. It would have better served the film to start with the attack sooner — besides everyone knows it’s coming.
There is also a serious personnel issue. There are various government organizations in play in Benghazi — the CIA, the ambassador and his team and the military security team. The CIA team is in charge, and for the first hour they act like pretentious jerks. Then the ambassador and his security crew come off as a bunch of inexperienced idiots. But when the compound is attacked, they all turn to the military crew to save them. Something about their attitudes and their sudden change just doesn’t sit well.
Which comes to the final complication — anyone who has paid attention to the news in the past four years knows the story, or at least parts of the story. It’s hard to believe that somehow Bay got ahold of the complete true story and made a movie that was also 100 percent truth. It’s even harder to separate the fact from fiction when the details of the attack are so controversial.
There is no doubt “13 Hours” has its issues. But if you’re looking for a solid action movie that will get you thinking about those who gave their lives to protect this country, then there is no doubt “13 Hours” is your movie.