The 2016 film is a retelling of the attack on an American diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, Libya, and the story of the six private military contractors who defended the outpost
Last Updated: 09.59 AM, Jul 26, 2022
In our weekly series, Monday Mayhem, we recommend fast-paced Hollywood action films
Michael Bay has rightfully carved a name for himself in Hollywood as the ‘action film’ expert, whose films deliver high-octane action films with plenty of set-pieces with big explosions. Films such as Bad Boys, Armageddon, and Pearl Harbour are a few examples of blockbuster hits that are entertaining but not always endeared by the critics. His stint at the helm of the Transformers franchise may have further tarnished his image as a credible filmmaker. However, Bay made a comeback in a manner of speaking with the 2016 film 13 Hours. While it may have underwhelmed at the box office and failed to impress the critics, it is undoubtedly one of his most grounded films. Originally titled 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, the film is based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s 2014 book.
The film features an ensemble of John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, Max Martini, Dominic Fumusa, David Denman, and David Costabile. The film is primarily told from the perspective of six private military contractors hired by the CIA to protect a secret CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya — described in the film as one of the most dangerous places in the world occupied by various militia fighting for power in the aftermath of Mu'ammar Al-Qadhdhāfī’s 42-year tyrannical rule coming to a brutal end. The CIA outpost called the Annex was one of the last foreign diplomatic posts in the country. When the US ambassador Chris Stevens visits the country in an attempt to resolve the issues plaguing the country chaos ensues. The temporary embassy was initially attacked followed by waves of heavily armed attacks on the Annex compound.
The film features two conflicts, one between the hostile militia and the Americans, and the other between the bureaucrats from the CIA and the American private military soldiers. It is heavily insinuated in the film that the CIA chief’s lack of decisiveness and his insistence on following every protocol may have cost lives. It is also heavily implied that the US government was reluctant to send in backup to Benghazi as it could cause an international diplomatic incident. The classic film trope of the heroes having to fight the very establishment they are protecting in order to ‘save the day’ is central to the film. These aspects of the film have obviously been debated with regard to its historic accuracy, but the liberties Bay may or may not have taken certainly makes for a gripping narrative from a storytelling perspective.
From the very first minute of its runtime, the film is able to create moments of impending doom that will keep its viewers at the edge of their seats. When the action commences, it is well choreographed and executed in typical Bay fashion. Despite his critics, if there is anything that Bay excels at, it's his ability to create excellent action sequences for his films. The gun fights, the explosions, and the chaos make for compelling viewing. The performances by the lead actors were also commendable and were able to overcome the relatively lacklustre screenplay.
One of the criticisms aimed at the film was that it indulged in the idea of the ‘American hero’ and its tendency to lean towards glorifying American nationalistic sentiment. But in Bay’s defence, it was far more balanced than most of his previous films, with a more balanced and nuanced depiction of the plight of Libyans in Benghazi. The obvious comparisons with Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down are unavoidable, a superior film in every aspect, but 13 Hours is an entertaining action film, with great visuals and an engaging story in its own right,
Watch 13 Hours here .