Premise: It’s very simple. Jim from The Office in a Michael Bay movie about Benghazi.
The Good Stuff:
-As far as Michael Bay movies go, this is one of the least blatantly obnoxious films he’s ever made. There’s no comic relief racist caricatures, there’s no homophobic rants, the explosions actually make sense, and Sam Witwicky’s parents are nowhere to be seen. He probably wrote a four-hour screenplay filled with terrible ideas and immature jokes, but then a sensible person was able to edit all of them out and create a normal two and a half hour movie out of it. I mean, imagine how good Pain & Gain would have been if didn’t have 100% of Michael Bay’s sensibilities.
-The action, when it happens, is decently exciting. There’s a good amount of tension achieved through build-ups to the shooting. There’s usually enough pause for us to care about the characters during these fights too.
-James Badge Dale seems like a good actor. Especially with the lines he was given to say here (or in spite of?).
-Did Bay pay homage to himself by doing the exact same follow-the-bomb-falling shot that he used in Pearl Harbor? I hope he starts making that his trademark shot in every movie from here on out.
The Bad Stuff:
-13 Hours? What is that, the running time…?!?! Yeah, this movie is disgustingly long. It just keeps going on and on forever. There’s so much that could have been cut out. Probably about two-thirds of the way through it, I started mostly thinking about the Chipotle I was going to get after the movie.
-OK, I’m gonna come across as ignorant, or at the very least uninformed on this one. You see, I don’t follow every news story. Even some of the bigger ones. I’m too busy watching reality cooking shows or playing Mario Kart that I don’t keep tabs on everything that goes on in the world, especially political stuff. So, here goes… I have like *no* idea what Benghazi was about or why it was a big deal. Was it bad because it was a secret US embassy that wasn’t supposed to be there? Was it bad because the army dudes couldn’t tell the difference between the bad guys and the innocent civilians? Was it bad beca— you know what, I’m not sure I entirely want to know, or care to know. The point is, this giant gunfight of a movie didn’t really fully inform me of what made this giant conspiracy/coverup/whatever it was such a big deal, aside from the huge loss of life that occurred. Maybe that was the point? It was just about the soldiers? I don’t know.
-For about fifteen seconds, at the very end of the movie, Michael Bay shows us the emotional human side of the Libyans who got torched over the course of the film. Soooooo, fifteen seconds of a 156 minute film is dedicated to showing that the other side of the fight also had human beings involved, too. A more interesting movie might have been a parallel-edited plot about the American soldiers being caught off guard in a country they don’t care about while contrasting that with the thought process of the gun-toting Libyans who were fighting for their turf. I mean, I’m not trying to tell you who is more wrong in this situation; but certainly there is a compelling story to be told on both sides, right?
-I couldn’t take John Krasinski seriously. He’s… not that great of a dramatic actor, maybe? Even at his big crying scene, I didn’t really feel anything. [to be fair, that happened over two hours into the movie, and I kinda wanted to just go home at that point] Bay also cast the guy from The Office who Jim stole Pam away from as well. Remember Roy? I thought that was just sort of weird/funny.
-I saw this movie at 9:30 AM, and to my surprise, it was 75% sold out. Entirely with the elderly. And since I didn’t assume that a 9:30 AM movie would be that full, I leisurely strolled in there with my soda about five minutes before it started, like a goober. I had to sit in the front section. Like the WAY front section. I was in the 3rd row, hurting my neck the entire time. I’m sorry, a two-inch recline isn’t sufficient enough movement to accommodate a fifty foot theater screen within spitting distance. …ANYWAY, I had a point to this whiny complaint… The shaky cam in this movie, which felt so shaky (even in the non-action scenes) that it appeared as if Michael Bay was actively humping the camera to operate it, was nearly unwatchable from the front section seat I was sitting in. It took like thirty minutes for my eyes to incorrectly adjust themselves enough to where I could make sense of what I was seeing.
Final Thoughts: Again, in terms of a Michael Bay movie, this seemed like one of his less silly efforts. That’s not to say it’s his best, but it’s nowhere close to his worst. I think, though, that you can find every element of this movie done better in some other movie. You can find better modern military combat type stuff in Zero Dark Thirty, Sicario (I’m aware that’s FBI, not military), Black Hawk Down, Lone Survivor, etc. Hurt Locker and American Sniper both deal with the struggle of coping with post-service anxiety better than this, too. Hey, there was even a better escape-from-an-embassy movie made in the last few years (Argo). And you could probably watch all of those movies in a row, and it would feel less like it’s dragging your time through the mud than 13 Hours did.