Director: Michael Bay
Score: Lorne Balfe
Hands up if you're a Michael Bay hater? Yes, he ruined Transformers for a lot of people and has a tendency to add unnecessary, stereotypical elements like objectifying women. But, none of you can say he hasn't brought sometime to the realm of Cinema, that high gloss colour that seems to always be filmed through an Instagram filter and his trademark 360 degree rotation levitation shot. I love those shots. Who didn't like Armageddon? Even for its flaws, it's still a strong guilty pleasure. Bad Boys? Pain and Gain? And now 13 Hours.
Bay does a damn good dramatisation of Mitchell Zuckoff's (really?) titular book, a true story about a highly trained private security team, code-named the Global Response Staff, or the G.R.S. a fancy title for mercenary contractors, who are protecting the last CIA outpost in Benghazi, Libya during the civil war after the deposition and execution of Gaddafi.
Tensions constantly run high with everyone in town being a potential threat and situations go from bad to war zone crazy when members of the Ansar al-Sharia militant group attacks the U.S. safe house acting as home to Ambassador J. Christoper Stevens, killing him and operative Sean Smith. A part of the team disobeys authority and attempts to rescue the U.S. civilians while the others initiate lockdown protocols building defences and preparing for the bloody carnage coming their way, but there's internal conflict from CIA chief adding to the suspense. Do they stay or evacuate, do they live or die.
I still cant believe it's John Krasinski, Jim from the American Office and star of Away We Go. An entirely different role, I'm not sure what I would have thought knowing it was him before watching. In fact, the film doesn't have any A-listing stars which I found refreshing and all the cast gave absolutely strong, convincing and often gut-wrenching performances. There's good character development with a lot of screen time with family calls and fun camaraderie between the tightly trained team.
After much debate with Director of photography, Oscar winning cinematographer, Dion Beebe, Bay decided to shoot entirely in digital for the first time due to the night scenes and scheduling rulings. I'm not a fan of digital, possibly for the same reasons as most directors, Bay included; digital still can't capture fast action turning them into a blur and ironically, dark scenes appear blotchy. Though, it doesn't ruin the film, and some of the action is incredible, being so real, it adds to the great scene of danger.
Bay always enlists ex-military as technical advisors on his films and it's evident that it pays off receiving high praise from military personnel, but it surprisingly bombed at the box office resulting in being Bay's lowest grossing film of all time but could that be because of the lack of big names attached to the cast?
The concluding fighting lasts around 90 minutes which is only a snippet of the thirteen hours the team had to survive whilst protecting the civilians. The original cut was actually 4 hours long and you can understand why, but gladly it is cut shorter, not that it drags, but it's already long with a running time of 144mins.
The firefights are intense, loud and totally destructive, the sound of gun and mortar fire is deafeningly good. The stunt-work and pyrotechnics are insanely precise, Bay lighting the scenes up with explosions after firebombs and non-stop machine gun fire.
Lorne Balfe does an superb score, mostly somber with some heavy hitting tracks, the soundtrack tells the story perfectly. I have listened to the track "Forgotten" over and over when I first watched this and the rest of the score is just as good.
This is a story about heroics, where people not actually bound by duty but by what is the right, those who act in times of crisis regardless of self, risk and money, a definition of honour and the courageous men who lost their lives that day. It's emotional, powerful and engaging amidst total carnage. It raises a lot of questions, politically, with plenty of red tape endangering peoples lives.
This film would sit comfortably next to Black Hawk Down and Lone Survivor; and fans of both should enjoy this modern warfare film, but it doesn't glorify war, only the soldiers that bravery protected the compound for a gruesome 13 hours against all odds. It's a big spotlight on the casualties, fatalities and the harsh realities of war.
Whether you're a Bay fan or not, this is certainly one of the best war films of 2016 if not of the decade and has been overlooked.
Running Time: 8
The Cast: 9
Job Description: 10
The Extra Bonus Point: 10 for excellent performances, strong direction, a harrowing depiction of an unknown war story.
Would I buy the Blu-ray?: Yes.