The story of what happened in Benghazi, Libya, is one for the American history books. This is a tragedy that has lots of unnecessary casualties, in addition to putting many American politicians on the spot. Author Mitchell Zuckoff wrote 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, which is a behind-the-scenes account of what took place there. When it was announced that the book was being adapted for screen, it came as a real surprise when Transformers director Michael Bay was said to be on board to direct the 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.
As one of Hollywood’s most critically panned and fan-hated directors, his last attempt at a film adaptation was Pearl Harbor, which is regarded as one of the worst war films to ever exist. Then the casting of known comedic actor John Krasinski as lead is certainly an interesting yet strange choice. It is easy to see why others would be skeptical of this project. Surprisingly, critics seem to be enjoying 13 Hours a lot more than usual. 13 Hours sits at 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, but the question is, does this Michael Bay film capture the accuracy of Zuckoff’s book? And is this truly his best film to date?
According to Empire Cinema, the synopsis for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi tells the story of Jack Silva (John Krasinski), a former Navy Seal turned CIA contractor who teams up with five other military contractors to hold off Libyan extremist until military aid arrives. This is just a movie, but the real story of what happened in Benghazi is a classic “who done it” cover-up scenario that points direct responsibility to then-Secretary of State Hilary Clinton. As per the Atlantic, on September 11, 2012, radical Islamic Jihadist ambushed the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya. In the attack, Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed. It took American forces longer than usual to arrive and aid the six contractors. This left Clinton hanging out to dry, as the GOP placed blame on her for not having enough protection at U.S. installations abroad. So much more information has been exposed about this situation that Hilary Clinton is still under investigation. The GOP is convinced the delay in support was deliberate on her part. It doesn’t seem like the angle of 13 Hours is to name drop and place blame, though. Just a recount of the events from the main character’s perspective
With Benghazi being such a loaded subject that is still being investigated, some have asked if it is simply too soon for a film documenting the events at Benghazi to be released. With a track record of mediocre action films, and the abysmal World War II film Pearl Harbor, it left people to question whether Michael Bay is capable of handling such a powerful story like this. However, from the day of release, critics aren’t loving it, but they aren’t trashing it either. Which is surprising for a Bay film. Having done research, some critics actually applaud Bay for the film’s accuracy and direction, while other critics think 13 Hours presents the typical cinematic overkill that is so prevalent in Michael Bay films.
Movie reviewer Peter Maass, at the Intercept, felt 13 Hours was tantamount to military propaganda,
“As far as propaganda goes, 13 Hours is mercifully thin. If we are lucky, it will fade away as quickly as the fake smoke from one of its many explosions. But 13 Hours is getting a big publicity push and might accidentally be taken seriously. Bay’s team is trying to work the behind-the-scenes alchemy that makes reviews by recovering war correspondents like me utterly irrelevant, not to mention film critics who don’t know an IED from LAX. 13 Hours is lining up endorsements from the taste-makers who really count, celebrities like Carmelo Anthony and Tiger Woods, who are among the sports figures who have attended advance screenings and tweeted about it. (Take that, Pauline Kael.)”
Soren Anderson of the Seattle Times gave 13 Hours a shocking three out of four stars. Comparing the film to some recent cinematic greats,
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is reminiscent of Black Hawk Down and American Sniper in the way it marries visceral Hollywood-style filmmaking (a Bay trademark) with sober subject matter in a manner that doesn’t trivialize the seriousness of the story it’s telling.”
Michael Bay seems to be trying to turn over a new leaf with 13 Hours. He really wants to show others that he isn’t just a one-trick pony.
He wants to show he can deliver brainless, explosive action, as well as create Oscar bait. 13 Hours still sits at 60 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, which is extremely high for a Bay film. And who knows, the score may get higher for 13 Hours as more people see it. I guess we will all have to wait until February 2017 to see if Bay and John Krasinski have earned their place among Hollywood’s A-list at the Oscars.
[Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images]