"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" is directed by Michael Bay (yeah, that guy) and it's based off of the true story of the terrorist attacks that took place at the American Embassy in Libya and how a group of military veterans fight back against the terrorists to protect American lives.
OK, let's get this out of the way: This movie is directed by Michael Bay, one of the worst directors working right now. He insulted military veterans with "Pearl Harbor", he turned tragic and brutal events into a comedy with "Pain and Gain", and he's pretty much ruined how we view Summer blockbusters with his garbage "Transformers" series. I personally don't like Michael Bay at all and I think he'd be doing film a favor if he just quit...that being said, I actually enjoyed this movie. Yeah, who would've thought that a January movie directed by Michael Bay ends up being the better movie to come out this weekend?
As much as I enjoyed this movie, I unfortunately have to start with something I didn't like about it and that would be the build-up. This movie starts out in the first 45 minutes with typical character set up that's done in the most cliched way possible for a military movie. We have a group of soldiers and they have the same old stuff like a pregnant wife and a newborn kid at home and that's suppose to be the cheap emotional anchor that connects us to these characters. And seeing these characters do stuff not related to the plot at hand just becomes boring after a while. The build-up for this film could've been cut down by at least 15-20 minutes and it would've made for better pacing. With how this movie starts out, I thought I was going to hate this it for being the usual boring Michael Bay set-up.
However, when the shit starts hitting the fan and we see stuff like the terrorist attack and the soldiers engaging in battle, the movie picks up and starts to become very intense and exciting to watch. For the most part, the action is well filmed with battles that you can actually see and effects that are very well done, save for a couple of moments when there's blatant shaky cam, probably to mask some unfinished visual work or obvious stunt doubles. Or it could be that Bay thinks shaky cam is something people actually like, but we may never know.
The performances in this movie were also very good with James Badge Dale and John Krasinski both standing out as believable military soldiers. I was honestly worried about Krasinski's role in this movie considering that I know him mostly for his comedic role in "The Office", but he gave a genuinely good dramatic performance that displays his range as an actor. You can tell that all of the actors involved cared deeply about the real life people they were portraying and it payed off with solid performances around the board.
If there's one thing to keep in mind it's that this movie isn't without its moments of Michael Bay's clear directorial stamp. You still get some of the stuff he's known for like fake looking explosions in some scenes and long, wide-shots of people getting out of a car with weird color saturation on the screen, but these little nitpicks are actually welcome considering this movie doesn't have the normal Bay criticisms such as shitty acting, fake-looking CGI, and racist stereotype characters.
In the end, "13 Hours" was a surprisingly good movie with good acting, exciting action, and even some good dramatic moments in the mix. The point of this movie was to make you feel like you're in the situation with the soldiers and feel the severity of the situation and the movie may not pull it off perfectly in some parts, it still succeeds in its endeavor. Good on you, Bay, you actually made a good movie that can be put next to "The Rock" in terms of genuine effort in your filmmaking.