In the line of fire
13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi
MICHAEL Bay’s third movie based on actual events – after Pearl Harbor and Pain & Gain – is perhaps his best “serious” work to date, even if it does go on a little too long at 140- plus minutes. Based on the Sept 11, 2012 attacks on the US diplomatic compound and nearby CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, 13 Hours focuses more on the camaraderie and sacrifice of fighting men – like last year’s Lone Survivor – and not on the political circumstances and controversies behind the violence. ( Passing mention is made to “a video clip”, namely the notorious Innocence Of Muslims trailer which has been blamed for inciting the attacks. An observation about the attack, made by one of the defenders towards the end, offers up a different perspective.)
In fractured, fragile post- Gaddafi Libya, it doesn’t take long for tensions to rise in the movie, and about two- thirds of its running time is devoted to the attacks and the long, long night faced by the defenders. There appear to be some convenient lapses of disclosure ( like why no air support was forthcoming) and the near- superheroics in the CIA compound might seem exaggerated to some.
Mostly, though, Bay shows commendable control and even sensitivity in telling the stories of the six men who made up the CIA compound’s Global Response Staff contractors ( but really, Michael, a mortar shell does not take on the proportions of a 200kg bomb, even when it’s falling in Bay motion).
So if you can put up with the director occasionally belabouring the point, 13 Hours has some good things to offer: the strong performances of its principal cast headed by John Krasinski and James Badge Dale, and Chuck Hogan’s screenplay which effectively captures the pressures of living on the razor’s edge in an environment where one mistake in telling friend from foe means certain death.