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Whatever assumptions you hold for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi as a Michael Bay production, keep holding on.
It slowly builds to the much anticipated and inevitable moment when a group of Islamic militants mount an attack on a visiting American ambassador. The problem is that the film only conceptually builds up to this movie and character-defining moment. Worse yet, these moments often come in huge Raisin Bran-sized scoops just moments before intense action explodes onto the screen, as if we as an audience are too dim to put previous characterizations back into play if more than five seconds go by without a reminder. Granted, that may not be what this film is going for (and it absolutely isn’t, which is fine), but there is also a wealth of acting prowess on display that is disproportionate to the emotional heights the story achieves. Thankfully for the drama and impressively for the action, Bay manages to move swiftly and relentlessly from scene to scene. It, perhaps more than even his Transformers films, is an exemplary piece of film for all of the divisive director’s strengths and weaknesses. It starts with a bit of runway when a fresh face to the group of contractors named Jack Silva (John Krasinski) joins the classified CIA installation where intelligence is gathered on the region following an American-fueled and violent turn towards democracy.
In practice, it feels more like a juvenile retelling of this incredible and mostly true story. Either they or someone else tells you exactly what they’re there for and what they value.


There is an actual montage where we zip and zoom between each team member calling back to home, talking and laughing with their children and wives. He carries with him that interminable Jim from The Office sort of likeability but he also undergoes an incredible transformation over the course of the 144-minute runtime that seems to exist only by the virtue of his acting and not the writing or directing (mostly because it doesn’t seem to fit the aims of either). They all truly sell the hopelessness of the situation while faltering a bit on the camaraderie portion of the beginning. While he doesn’t quite know how to build narrative suspense, he does know how to shoot action for impact. Platform Nation is a collaboration of several gaming podcasts who decided it would be best for our gamers, the podcasters and the rest of the gaming community if they came together to share efforts. The end result, unsurprisingly, is a protracted experience that will undoubtedly split even a single person’s opinion. The next closest base is 400 miles away in Tripoli, so the team does only what they can, which is defend the ambassador and all the assets with them. Bay moves from each chunk of action with no clear idea of how to make it matter dramatically. It often feels like they are one step away from indulging in a Shakespearean soliloquy, espousing how much they miss their family and how they can’t wait to see them again when they leave. Not to mention they all look 100-percent the part as tier one operators, replete with tier one beards.


Bay keeps fights digestible and, therefore, tense while still managing to imbue it with his trademark flair and style. And especially seeing that he only has more Transformers on the docket, an attempt at growth or experimentation would have been nice.
Together we have a larger voice in the community for the gamers that we strive to speak for. And that’s a damn shame because, as films like Jarhead and, more recently and more successfully, American Sniper showed, there is a lot to mine there. A few volleys go on a bit long and pull the tension to its breaking point, but for the most part, he keeps sequences as brief and as sustained as necessary. But here we are, with another visually riveting but mentally numbing Michael Bay experience.



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