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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

  • Film
  • 3 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

'Transformers' director Michael Bay takes on the war on terror with his trademark grace and subtlety – not really, this is just two hours of shouting and bangs

Finally, the director we’ve all been waiting for, Michael Bay (‘Transformers’), weighs in on the most complex and controversial episode of American military history in recent years: the attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. In fact, Bay hasn’t done that bad a job. He still loves his American flags, and he’ll always be on shaky ground when a movie’s plot basically turns on a bunch of heavily armed bros stranded in a parking lot, waiting for a rescue go-ahead that comes minutes too late.

But when ‘13 Hours’ turns into the two-hour action symphony it can barely wait to become – a harrowing stretch of shadowy aggressors charging the walls of a compound, bullets pinging off metal, spent ammo casings showering cement underfoot, endless carnage – Bay is in his element. This is some of the most concentrated work he has ever done, dropping his customary slo-mo (and some visual coherence) to create a fully intentional chaos that’s as fitting to Benghazi’s Alamo-like standoff as Steven Spielberg’s was to the Normandy landings.

There’s little political commentary here. No actor is cast as Hillary Clinton; nobody questions the selfless heroism of the soldiers involved; and US ambassador John Christopher Stevens, who died in the attack, deserves a more honourable tribute. Chuck Hogan’s screenplay has a hard time carving out distinctive characters from all the bearded warriors – a slimy, indecisive CIA chief (David Costabile) makes the deepest impression. The final word on this incident will require a more thoughtful filmmaker. But hopefully that artist will possess at least half of Michael Bay’s punishing, peerless craft.

Joshua Rothkopf
Written by
Joshua Rothkopf

Release Details

  • Release date:Friday 29 January 2016
  • Duration:144 mins

Cast and crew

  • Director:Michael Bay
  • Cast:
    • Pablo Schreiber
    • John Krasinski
    • David Denman
    • Toby Stephens
    • Peyman Moaadi
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