Despite being sold as a serious war film, 13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is so rooted in the Michael Bay formula that it feels like another chapter in the transformers franchise.
Impartially, the story reads like a comedy. The CIA Fail to pick a discrete base. Everyone but our supposed heroes literally, not figuratively, cannot tell left from right. Even though our heroes are tasked with defending a CIA base, they deliberately disobey the Base Chief’s orders to protect the outpost, and abandon everyone there. Then they lead enemy combatants back to their base when they rescue two idiots that weren’t their responsibility to begin with. All of it is sold like something to be proud of, but in reality it only goes to prove that military intelligence is anything but. And, the icing on the Irony Cake is that this movie is so flag waving that the bad guys actually shoot at the America stars and stripes.
Michael bay can’t do realism. All of it too fucking surreal, it’s like watching the Ghostbusters fight terrorists. The hero’s of the story walk through the warn torn country like their shit doesn’t stink and seemingly, never make mistake. They can’t. This is the modern equivalent of the eighties action hero’s we know and love: Bullet proof and American. In other words, this is a fairly competent action movie, but it can’t be taken seriously as an honest depiction of war.
Michael Bay knows it. I doubt he was going for realism. He’s knows that buff dudes firing machine guns at baddies put asses in seats. He’s made an entire career of it. Hell, if one wanted to, they could swap out the enemy combatants in 13 hours, with friggin Decepticon’s, and the only difference between this movie and the others, would be an increase in violence and decrease in tits.
13 hours retains the same style, or better yet, formula of the Transformer’s movies. The same camera filter, which fades the film into a colour polarity between teal and orange—like watching a film through an instagram filter. The same outlandish explosions. The same lens flare. And like the Transformers franchise, I certainly felt the runtime.
There are no three dimensional characters. It reminded me of a horror film; you pick one that you most associate with and hope they make it to the end. The casting felt purely mercenary: Let’s get a guy that is recognized as a family man from his role as “Jim on the Office” so that the writers don’t have worry about actually writing a solider who’s also a family man. It’s a lazy attempt to connect the protagonist with the audience.
And now, I’m going to get very nit picky; The dialogue makes a transparent attempt at being philosophical by quoting Joseph Campbell. One of the soldiers is reading Power of Myth, and spouts out that “All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you.” The quote is repeated several more times throughout 13 Hours as a cheap attempt to try an elevate it out of the base action movie that it is. Sad thing is: I don’t think Bay fully understands the metaphor inherent to the quote; otherwise I doubt he’d use it in a movie where there’s such an obvious dichotomy between Good Guy and Bad Guy.
It’s fine if 13 Hours acknowledges that the Americans are the gods, heavens and hells, but it never acknowledges that the baddies in the film are just the same. When the Heroes attempt to “slay another”, they do just that, they do not in any way “Slay [themselves]” or come to better understanding of The Self. This is the idea that Campbell focused damn-near his entire career on, so when it’s dropped into the movie with no regard to the context, it feels like somewhere along the way Bay saw the quote and thought it sounded cool.
I don’t want to too harsh about the movie. It’s a fairly competent action film, but it never comes close to telling a human struggle. In summary, Michael Bays style of direction is a square peg to the circle hole of war films; It just doesn’t fit.