13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Starring: John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber

Review written by Robert D. Patrick

“Bang-bang, pow-pow, pew-pew” – Michael Bay giving his actors direction on the set of this film. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi isn’t exactly a title that deals in the currency of brevity. More than a film’s moniker, it sounds like a marked down Tom Clancy video game – and, sometimes throughout the bullet pocketed walls of this cinematic world, 13 Hours even plays as one.

Bay’s battlefield, based on the true and politically polarizing story of six CIA service contractors under the storm cloud of gunfire, is an igneous canvas of shrapnel and spent shell casings. The film shirks any political agenda, and, using its director’s skill set, shows only the rubble flung war zone of Benghazi. For much of the movie being scenes of cars exploding, hot rounds threading through bodies, and boots kicking up debris, the normally bombastic director manages to reign in all of the searing visuals into a taut action film. 13 Hours could have easily – with a few visual errors – become a Call of Duty map. And although the militants appear like targets in a shooting gallery –  they pop up behind partitions and sit until they are dinged from their perches – they still appear as an unpredictable and fierce threat. Bay manages to build – and, more impressively, sustain – a palpable sense of dread and claustrophobia while maintaining a tactile and breathing world. You realize how wide, crawling, and dense the city outside of the skeletal United States compound truly is.

The screenplay of the film, written by The Strain scribe Chuck Hogan, focuses more on hot barrels than it does on erudite dialogue. Certain lines are repeated, ad nauseam, for effect. Pablo Schreiber plays the real life Kris Paronto, but it’s hard to imagine that Hogan didn’t envision the character being Edward Burns from Saving Private Ryan. Outside of Schreiber, most of the actors play their parts as if they were Jesse Ventura in Predator. Because of the aforementioned problem, sometimes it’s hard to differentiate between the men. That being said, John Krasinski’s turn as Jack Da Silva is the film’s emotional circulatory system. Krasinski’s inherently affable face is dotted with facial scruff, making him the doggedly relateable family man under duress. The actor does more than is required of him, however, and you’re left feeling as though the one-time star of The Office is making an easy transition to film.

With more beards than the 2013 Red Sox roster, Bay’s latest film is a scorching, blood flecked mural of American machismo. The rah-rah isn’t too pronounced, though, and dissenters will have a difficult time piling on to 13 Hours. As an action film, without much intellect, it serves its purpose. The camera shakes more than Paul Greengrass on a trampoline and the dialogue is suspect, but if you’re looking for a serviceable action flick – here you go.

Author: Rob Patrick

The program director of the Olympia Film Society, Rob is also a former San Diego Film Critics Society member. He has written for The East County Californian, The Alpine Sun, The East County Herald, The San Diego Entertainer, and the San Diego Reader. When he isn't curating a film festival, he is drinking rosé out of a plastic cup in Seattle or getting tattoos from Jenn Champion.

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