Review: ‘13 Hours’ favors action over politics

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

The 2012 attack on a CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya, has been a political lightning rod for three years.

But don’t look for any finger pointing in Michael Bay’s portrayal of the events. His “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is straight up hoo-rah stuff, a buffed-up, if muddled, tribute to the ex-military contractors who protected the compound and minimized the casualties during the event. (Its script is based on a book written with the input of several of those contractors.)

Bay being Bay, he favors quick-cut visuals, big-time explosions and dramatic shots of the American flag. His style serves him well here, and his central sequence — a late-night raid on the CIA property — is stirringly executed.

But Bay being Bay, his characters aren’t much more than grunts who get to look cool toting guns. His chief squad (John Krasinski and Max Martini among them) is made up of sweaty, bearded toughs with names like “Tanto” and “Boon,” and they’re virtually indistinguishable from one another. They drink Buds, have families they miss back home and are always saying hello to each other by ironically stating, “Welcome to (fill in the blank).” Three such greetings occur in the film’s first 30 minutes.

Politics are checked at the door — the words “Hillary” and “Clinton” are never mentioned — but the movie’s attitudes about those dwelling outside the compound’s walls are blunt. “They’re all bad guys,” says Tanto (Pablo Schreiber), “until they’re not.” Hoo-rah.

“13 Hours” is so macho it practically has a Born to Lose tattoo on its arm. It’s a military grade war machine, and it comes in the same way it goes out: with guns blazing.

‘13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’


Rated R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language

Running time: 147 minutes