Movie Review - 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

This movie put me to sleep. It's too long and way too boring. Director Michael Bay can have all the gunfire and explosions that he wants, but if you don't care about the characters,  the movie will just be one, long slog. It's not just that you don't care, but Bay doesn't do anything to distinguish the characters. It focuses on six men, six military soldiers, and unfortunately they all look alike and all of them have similar feelings and similar, personal situations. They're all six, white men of similar height and build, as well as similar, if not exactly the same beards. It's as if they all came out a factory and off the exact, same assembly line.

It's odd because we spend a hour before the titular 13 hours begins. We spend a hour before the action starts ostensibly trying to get to know these guys. Nothing within that hour though helps us to distinguish one man from another. They're all G.I. Joe-clones, the typical soldier-type. Trying to distinguish six men might be a fool's errand. The approach might be to focus on a few of the six and let the rest be the backup singers, which the movie also tries, but fails at that too.

John Krasinski (It's Complicated and Leatherheads) stars as Jack Silva who is seasoned and maybe a little cynical. He arrives in Libya, but it's not his first time in the Middle East, nor probably this country. When he arrives, he doesn't seem phased. He settles into his assignment easily. He meets the other five soldiers but becomes familiar with them quickly, not really but that's the assumption.

James Badge Dale (World War Z and Iron Man 3) co-stars as Tyrone S. Woods who biographically is not that much different from Jack Silva. He's simply the one who bumps heads with the CIA Chief for whom the six soldiers essentially work. The soldiers provide protection for the CIA compound in Benghazi, Libya, and Tyrone is the so-called leader.

Max Martini plays Mark Geist, a former marine. Dominic Fumusa plays John Tiegen, a former marine. Pablo Schreiber plays Kris Paconto, a former U.S. Army Ranger, and David Denman plays Dave Denton, another former marine. Those four round out the team, but again they're indistinguishable.

Written by Chuck Hogan (The Town and The Strain), this screenplay doesn't flesh out these four men. Hogan adapted the book by Mitchell Zuckoff who interviewed these men and supposedly profiled them. Having not read the book, it could just be a rundown of the 13 hours, minute-by-minute, with no biographical profiling. However, Hogan could have manufactured something to distinguish one man from the other.

What also hurts this movie is that a year before it was released, we got something similar, shorter and better. Showtime's Homeland aired an episode on December 7, 2014, called "13 Hours in Islamabad." Not only does that episode have a comparable title, it also has a comparable plot. In the episode, an embassy is attacked. An important figure, a diplomat has to take refuge and wait for agents of the CIA to rescue him.

It's pretty much the exact same plot. It can't just be a coincidence. The real-life incident that inspired Zuckoff's book occurred on September 11, 2012. It became the subject of controversy and debate almost daily. The book was published in September 2014, four months prior to that episode of Homeland, which means this episode is ostensibly the first adaptation, if not directly.

The episode was a little under a hour, which is nearly 90 minutes less than this movie. Putting that episode next to this movie, it becomes obvious that those 90 minutes are wasted. The episode is the tenth episode in the fourth season of Homeland. One can argue that the series had four seasons to build up the characters and the tension, but even as a stand-alone, the episode works vastly better than this movie. You feel the characters and you feel the drama, two things you don't feel in this Michael Bay void.

One Star out of Five.
Rated R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language.
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 24 mins. 


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