My brother says that the quality of a Michael Bay film is inversely proportional to its budget. So his smaller films (like Bad Boys or Pain and Gain) are better than his big budget films (like Pearl Harbor or anything with a robot in it).
This film may be additional evidence of that theory. For the most part, I enjoyed 13 Hours. The set up of where all the key players were in Benghazi prior to the September 11 attack on the embassy is done efficiently and interestingly. The heroes were shown to us in a way that makes them human (they love their kids!) and a little over-the-top heroic (they show no fear!).
Most everyone is a one-note presence on the screen, except for our two leads (James Badge Dale and John Krasinski) and the CIA chief (David Costabile). It’s a shame that this is one of those films that presents the world as being three kinds of people: good guys with guns, bad guys with guns, and metaphorical children who don’t understand what’s what. But, whatever. Gotta have an antagonist on this side of the battlefront.
Much of the film, both the action and the smaller character work, held my attention and even elicited emotional responses. It was a bit overlong. By the fourth (or fifth?) round of attacks, I started to check my watch.
For those not familiar with the Benghazi story, what follows could be considered a spoiler…
Following on my comment about the kinds of people in the world, we know that four Americans died in Benghazi. Of course, Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) has to be prominent, because he’s the reason any of this this happening in the first place. Unfortunately, he’s not portrayed as anything but a guy in a suit with a target on his back. We’re not meant to care about him except as his role of “who we protect”. We don’t even get to see his death. Another “child” who dies is Sean Smith (Christopher Dingli). He’s killed before we know or care who he is.
But, man, the two soldiers who die are really given the treatment. Tyrone Woods (Dale) is front and center throughout the film. I don’t begrudge the filmmakers that. He’s there for the whole thing. He’s the leader of this cadre of mercenaries. But the way they handled Glen Doherty (Toby Stephens) was really forced. He’s in another part of the world trying to come to Benghazi to help, and he’s portrayed as no-nonsense, hard-charging, right up to the point where he dies quickly and unexpectedly (but, dang, it was beautiful on screen) at the end of the film.
There’s little to no political commentary in the film (thank Shiva) but the worldview on display is still painfully clear, and to me, annoying.
Liked it, didn’t love it.