By Charly SHELTON
Many Americans know roughly what happened on Sept. 11 and Sept. 12, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya. There was a hostage situation, an ambassador was involved, Americans were trapped. But it’s not until a movie of the story comes out that much is cleared up and thrown in such sharp relief, easily consumable by the masses. “13 Hours” is the story of what really happened in Benghazi as told by the soldiers who lived it. Not only did they write the book on which the film is based, they were on-site in Malta for the making of the film to make sure it was done correctly. The result is one of the finest Middle Eastern war films of our time that should have been released three weeks ago to be eligible for Academy Award consideration. And for the first time in the history of our paper, we can print the following sentence with total sincerity and without sarcasm: Michael Bay directed a great film.
Starring John Krasinski and James Badge Dale, the film follows former special forces operatives – Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and Marines – who take private contract work regarding a CIA base in one of the highest risk places in the world. All other embassies had pulled out of Libya because of the chaos resulting after the deposition of dictator Muammar Gaddafi. The United States kept two embassies in Libya, one in Tripoli and one in Benghazi. Outside the embassy in Benghazi was a covert CIA base which officially didn’t exist. These six contract workers were guarding the CIA base when the embassy was attacked. They went to help, against orders. The tagline for the film sums it up best: “When everything went wrong, six men had the courage to do what was right.”
Krasinski is a favorite from “The Office” and romantic comedies, so to see him in a role like this is a sharp juxtaposition. This is a very emotionally charged and tense film that would be a challenge for even the most well-established dramatic actor. Krasinski pulled it off with surprisingly adept skill and, had this film been released three weeks ago, I believe he would be a front runner for the Best Actor Oscar. Bradley Cooper got a lot of Oscar attention last year in a similar role in “American Sniper,” so I’m not sure why the studio decided to hold this film.
Bay’s direction style is very shaky handheld action, which doesn’t lend too well to seeing the entire field of view, but because of the frantic running and explosions throughout most of the film it works. And then the downtimes between spurts of action are very emotional and touching. There’s a shot near the end of the film when one of the soldiers realizes that it’s over and they’re saved, and this is one of the best shots I’ve seen in a long time. It is so deliberate in the way it resonates with the audience after an hour of straight, terrifying action that one can’t help but be moved. Yes, this is written in the script, but the camera motion, the setting and the look, as well as getting the actor to reach that point, is delivered well. It is a beautiful shot that puts a finishing cap on the action. That being said, Bay has now revealed his hand. He can do good work apparently and now has no excuse to make bad movies. There is no reason to have to sit through anything like “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” ever again.
This is a movie that everyone should see. It is gory and violent, depressing and emotionally draining, but it’s something that every American needs to see because this is what our servicemen and women go through overseas while we watch people argue about it on the news. This is a much more vibrant and easily relatable version of what happened on the ground in Benghazi than following it live when it was happening or learning about it in history class.
Rated R for a really, really good reason. I give this film 5 out of 5 stars.