Review – 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

The story this film tells is one that a lot of people are probably not familiar with, and forgivably so, as it isn’t a widely told story but what happened in Benghazi on the 11th of September 2012 is something that we all should know, and now we do. When an attack is made on the American ambassador, six members of an elite security team despite no obligation, risked their lives to fight back and keep fighting when the attack only got more dangerous. In the process of these events those six men saved the lives of over 30 Americans, that would have most likely been killed if it weren’t for their actions. Directed by Michael Bay and starring John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Max Martini, David Costabile and Matt Letscher. 

For me personally a huge draw for this film was John Krasinski, being a fan of his work both as an actor and as a director, seeing something so different from his usual style and whether he could rise to that challenge was an interesting prospect and long story short, he certainly does. Though for the first half an hour I was still sceptical, it was drastically turned around and by the end of the film I had a huge respect for his performance, not only the action elements which he handles extremely well but the emotion that comes as a consequence. The rest of the cast falls under the same expectation, for the most of them I wasn’t sure how the quality of their performances would turn out, but there is no weak link among them; a vital part of that is creating that camaraderie, and the fact that these men do actually give you that team spirit, that each of them are in some way, shape or form connected to every other member of their team regardless of how long or well they known each other. Each of them are tested in their own ways, some add elements of comedy, some emotion and some leadership; but none of them disappoint.

Michael Bay directing is a phrase that in all honesty usually does pretty well to put me off seeing a film, I have generally pretty low expectation or faith in his projects whether it be Transformers or something like Pain & Gain (which is basically the majority of his filmography as a director), but this is something on a whole different level. There isn’t a gratuitous amount of things blowing up, or making light of things too often or just generally going over the top, it’s actually right on the money; the shots cut quickly but hold long enough to take in what is happening and they’re supported by a decent score which makes all the difference. The film does well to build tension, that feeling of being on the edge of your seat, holding your breath because you’ve honestly no idea what could go wrong at any moment and gets you to just hold out hope for each of these men to keep going and get through it. Which moves on nicely to just how hard this film can hit you because of what these men survive, it is based on the truth and despite we can’t be sure how much is 100% accurate, these things are happening in our world more often than we’d probably like to know and the film doesn’t dress it up too much and make it seem like something much more civilised than it is; these attacks are not the actions of civilised men. The sheer amount of violence in this film could be described as gratuitous if talking in generalities, but for the situation it is playing it’s entirely appropriate, it’s use is not overbearing and though it does get rather grim at certain points, it highlights the reality of the horrors that people like these men are going through, and then expected to just go back to their everyday lives with little support, whether it be emotional or financial.

My expectations for this film were reasonable, but I honestly did not expect it to be so hard hitting, I certainly underestimated it and without a doubt seeing it on the big screen heightens its affect so I definitely recommend seeing it in cinemas before it’s gone. Bay has easily outdone anything he’s ever directed with this film, it uses his skills with action but refines them and moves them in a much more satisfying and successful direction. They have taken a subject which highly deserves to be known and seen and made a film that is utterly watchable and engaging while putting an important story out into the public eye for all to see, which is something I can admire. It’s a great film, that’s put together well and has got far too little attention.

Verdict: 8/10

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