13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is an even-keeled telling of the events of that night with minimal political undertones sticking with the actual attacks than placing blame. The performances are all well done highlighted by James Badge Dale and, surprisingly, John Krasinski.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
Genre(s): Action, Drama, War
Paramount | R – 144 min. – $39.99 | June 7, 2016
Date Published: 06/12/2016 | Author: The Movieman
THE MOVIE – 3.75/5
“What would they say about me? ‘He died in a place he didn’t need to be, in a battle over something he doesn’t understand, in a country that meant nothing to him.’” – Jack Silva
Michael Bay is a baffling filmmaker. Whenever he diverts his attentions away from the inane Transformers franchise, he shows flashes of being a competent director from Bad Boys to even Pain & Gain (which I wasn’t a big fan of but was passable enough). Now he helms the war drama 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a tense thriller with some impressive action scenes but also some compelling performances.
The story, based on true events from the novel of the same name as well as memoirs of the soldiers themselves, begins a few days before the event as Jack Silva (JOHN KRASINSKI) has arrived in Libya to join a team of private security contractors working for the CIA in a compound, called The Annex, in Benghazi, a mile away from the American consulate. Silva is picked up by best friend and all around bad ass Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods (JAMES BADGE DALE).
Following a brief tense moment on a blocked road, where the pair faces down rebels and a leader cleric, they arrive to the fortified “secret” CIA annex complex and Silva is given a tour, lay of the land and introduction to his fellow soldiers — Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto (PABLO SCHREIBER), Dave ‘Boon’ Benton (DAVID DENMAN), John ‘Tig’ Tiegen (DOMINIC FUMUSA) and Mark ‘Oz’ Geist (MAX MARTINI) — as well as a man known only as Bob (DAVID COSTABILE), the CIA base chief who isn’t too fond of the contractors and vice-versa.
The film takes place over the course of a few days and we get some character moments, an introduction to Ambassador Chris Stevens (MATT LETSCHER), the lay of the land between the CIA annex and the diplomatic compound, just how dangerous Libya is in just trying to distinguish friend from foe and eventually those inside the annex, as it’s being attacked by a swarm of terrorists, attempts to get air support.
First and foremost, 13 Hours does display that Michael Bay isn’t just flash. No, the substance might be lacking but the core subject of survival and the bravery these soldiers had in the face of a barrage of firepower is amazing in of itself but Bay intertwines a compelling story with his specialty of action and with it placing the viewers in the shows of the soldiers. Sure, there are the typical Bay-isms in terms of big explosions and yet I found them far more gripping than anything in his Transformers movies.
The acting also is impressive. James Badge Dale unsurprisingly has some great scenes however the surprise for me was John Krasinski as a believable soldier, shedding his more comedic talents from “The Office” and turns in a convincing performance and is the highlight of the ensemble, of course he also gets the most depth with one particular scene in which he’s video chatting with his wife who, with a few screaming kids in the back, is going through a McDonalds drive-thru when one of them blurts out her mommy is pregnant; it’s a wonderful scene and Krasinski, as well as Alexia Barlier as his wife, pulls it off beautifully with raw emotion.
The supporting cast is also impressive headlined by Max Martini, an actor who has increasingly become one of my favorite character actors of late. He does get a bit lost amidst the action and taking a backseat to Dale and Krasinski, but he does have a few good scenes.
By no means perfect, and doesn’t hold a candle compared with other war dramas, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a solid thriller with fine performances all around and shows that Michael Bay does possess talent in telling a good story yet given this and The Island did, at best, meager numbers at the box office while Transformers remains strong worldwide, it’s no wonder Bay will continue to make them.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 3.0/5
This release comes with a semi-glossy slip cover. Inside is a DVD Copy and redemption code for the Digital HD copy.
For the Record: Finding the Truth Amid the Noise (8:02; HD) is a short featurette on looking at the real events and how the filmmakers focused on the event itself removing the outside politics. Features interviews not only with the cast and crew but the soldiers themselves.
Uncovering Benghazi’s Secret Soldiers (27:34; HD) is a set of interviews with the soldiers who fought during the attack and those who portrayed them set against behind-the-scenes footage and them visiting the annex set.
Preparing for Battle: Behind the Scenes of 13 Hours (26:24; HD) is a decent enough making-of featurette and includes more on-location interviews with the cast and crew (though Bay is absent outside of the BTS footage) as they discuss the characters and story.
Operation: 13 Hours Premiere (3:00; HD) is just some footage from the screening at AT&T Stadium (aka “Jerry World”).
In Memoriam (2:58; HD) – In all of the chaos and fighting, this featurette focuses on those who lost their lives that night (Chris Stevens, Glen ‘Bub’ Doherty, Sean Smith, Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods).
VIDEO – 5.0/5
|Paramount releases 13 Hours onto Blu-ray presented in its original 2.40 widescreen aspect ratio and a 1080p high-definition transfer. Although this is a dark looking movie, with a fair portion taking place at night, detail has sharp definition and with some natural grain and noise, it looks incredible. There were no major or noticeable instances of artifacts or aliasing making for a nice and clean transfer.|
AUDIO – 5.0/5
|The movie comes with a stunningly powerful Dolby Atmos track (outputs True HD 7.1 for older systems) and it’s simply amazing. Dialogue levels are crisp, clean and clear throughout but where this track comes to life is during the attack sequences where every channel is utilized with a fantastic robustness. This is easily reference quality work, as generally most Michael Bay Blu-ray releases are, but unlike the Transformers movies, I’d gladly show this movie off as prime example of what Atmos is capable of.|
OVERALL – 4.25/5
|Overall, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is an even-keeled telling of the events of that night with minimal political undertones sticking with the actual attacks than placing blame (there are a couple lines here and there but in the scope of a 135-minute movie, sans credits, it amounts to maybe one minute). The performances are all well done highlighted by James Badge Dale and, surprisingly, John Krasinski. The Blu-ray released through Paramount offers excellent video/audio transfers and a good selection of bonus material.|
Check out some more screen caps by going to page 2. Please note, these do contain spoilers.