"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" stars John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Max Martini, and Pablo Schreiber. Released on January 15, 2016, the film has a group of military veterans defending the American Ambassador and his staff from Islamic militants.
The film is directed by Michael Bay, who also directed films such as Bad Boys, Transformers, and Pain & Gain. It is based on the 2013 book of the same name by Mitchell Zuckoff. Michael Bay is the type of director who pretty much likes to make films that are filled with action and explosions. One of the problems that he always faces is how he executes the story along with the characters. After the box office success of Transformers: Age of Extinction, Bay decided to take a break from directing giant fighting robots once again to tackle another fact-based film that involves the 2012 Benghazi attack. The marketing does show that this could be the year where Bay actually made a good action flick. You want to know why? Because the theater that I went to was almost filled with seniors. After watching this film for the first time, all I can say is this: In your face, Bay-haters!
The cast delivered some good performances, including Krasinski as Jack and Badge Dale as Rone. Their performances may not be enough to achieve some sort of Oscar buzz for next year, but they showed some effort into making these characters believable. Speaking of which, what I liked about the main characters (the members of the security team) is that they all have something worth fighting for. Sure, it may be corny at times, but for an action film like this, it was quite good. The direction is pretty much what you would expect from a Michael Bay film: engaging action sequences, explosions, slow-mo shots, you get the idea. However, it does feel like that Bay is actually trying to pay tribute to the six-men security team who risked their lives defending the American diplomatic compound rather than making another action-fest. So, I have to give him props for that. I also liked how the first half of the film gives me time to know the characters right before the terrorist attack in the second half. It does feel a bit slow at times, but by the time the bullets start flying, it will all be worth it. The buildup was very well paced without feeling a bit too rushed and the action sequences were very intense and realistic. There were a couple of shaky cam moments that may feel a bit annoying, but the way they shot those sequences were exciting and clever.
The film also offered some emotional depth, but I don't think they were as effective or motivating as the other war films such as Zero Dark Thirty and American Sniper. There's some that worked, and some that don't.
Overall, with its engaging action sequences, some caring characters, and its sense of realism, "13 Hours" is Michael Bay's best film since the first Transformers film back in 2007. It's not a great war film due to its troubling emotional depth and its decent screenplay, but I thought Bay did a really good job with this film. If we're lucky, maybe he'll get the chance to direct a film adaptation of the Call of Duty games. It probably won't happen, but I would like to see that happen. This film's worth checking out if you're a fan of Michael Bay's filmography and/or war films, in general. Just don't expect it to be a masterpiece.