Personally I don’t get the problem that people have with Michael Bay, the dude makes entertaining films for the masses, what is not to like!? His classics like ‘The Rock’ and ‘Armageddon’ seem to be favourites amongst many film fans and he gets way too much stick for the ‘Transformers’ series which actually has a lot going for it. However once I saw positive reviews surfacing for ’13 Hours’ I dared to believe that people were finally giving the guy some credit and after seeing the film I can say that he definitely deserves it.
Films that focus on terrorism or the Middle East usually go one of two ways, either they focus on the political side of things too much and it becomes boring (‘Body of Lies’, ‘Green Zone’) or they choose to highlight the characters and action more and are therefore way more entertaining (‘American Sniper’, ‘Jarhead’). Of course with this being a Michael Bay film, ’13 Hours’ is action heavy and as a result we get a very entertaining film. Bay is the king of explosions and I don’t know that there has ever been a more appropriate setting for him to utilise this title than in a middle east war film. The action sequences are always exciting and gripping, there are a couple at the start of the film that are particularly good setting up the film very well. Alongside the action is of course our characters. All of the main guys are pretty likeable and they are played very convincingly by the cast. Some of the actors involved include James Badge Dale (’24’, ‘Iron Man 3’ & ‘The Walk’) and Max Martini (‘Sabotage’, ‘Captain Phillips’ & ‘Pacific Rim’). All the cast do a good job though, making us like their characters through moments of comedy and drama. Likable characters are so crucial for films like these and Bay nailed this aspect of the movie.
Whilst the action and the characters were pretty great there were a couple of very small flaws too. Shaky cam is something that plagues most action movies these days, however here in this war zone setting I felt it was used appropriately although there were a few scenes nearer the beginning of the movie that could have done without it. The film also has a very long running time attached to it, nearly reaching two and a half hours. Don’t let this concern you too much though as you only really feel the films length on one occasion and it doesn’t last too long. Bay is actually great at sustaining audiences interest for long periods of time and he’s done it here once again almost without any time checks from the viewers necessary. ’13 Hours’ does have an element of cheesiness to it, another of Bay’s trademarks, however this mainly occurs in its final moments and the usual amount of cheese injected is considerably less than we’d be used to. This restraint meant that the level of drama and emotion included combined with the weight of the true story allowed the film to be as effective as it could be in this element.
I imagine that many will claim this to be Bay’s most credible film to date but for me it’s simply another very entertaining entry into his filmography. The strength of the true story helps the film in a big way but the inclusion of likeable characters and gripping action means that ’13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi’ is one of the most enjoyable middle east action film we’ve seen in a long time.
Rating – 8/10
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