In recent years, Michael Bay has garnered himself a reputation for his really poorly directed/produced films - take any Transformers film or 2014's Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles as an example. However, can his latest film, the dramatic war-thriller 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi break the trend and show that there's more to Bay than explosive-porn? Here's my review.

Based on a true story of the attack on Benghazi, Libya in September 2012, The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi follows the heroic story of Jack Silva (John Krasinski) and his crew, Rooney (James Badge Dale), Tanto (Pablo Schreiber), Boom (David Denman), Tig (Dominic Fumusa) and Oz (Max Martini). Stationed in Benghazi to restore order in a community that has gone askew after recrntly losing their tyrannical dictator Gaddafi, things begin to quickly go wrong for our elite group when they soon find themselves fighting for their lives when countless locals begin attacking them. Heavily outnumbered, these six men must fight against all odds to survive.
Michael Bay doesn't exactly have the best track record when it comes to filmmaking - take any of his Transformers films as an example. The last time he directed a war film, it didn't exactly go down well, evident with 2001's not very good Pearl Harbour. So, when you hear that Michael Bay is going to be directing another war film, about the Benghazi attack in 2012, there are going to be some doubts. I had very little, if any, expectations from this film going on. The trailers and marketing was okay and, again, Bay has the tendency to disappoint. However, 13 Hours was actually a pleasant surprise! It's by no means a great film but it is certainly a good, entertaining, solid one and I actually enjoyed it, for the most part. I can safely say that this is the director's best film yet. It's a lot more focused than his other projects and it's actually as if Bay listened to all the complaints towards his other films and actually put some effort into trying to make this a reasonably good movie.

As I mentioned, this is a really focused film. As a result, it really takes care in telling it's story well and the premise and these characters are handled very well. There's a very real, gritty feel to the proceedings - for the most part - and it puts us right in the centre of action. We really get an idea of what these men went through during this harrowing crisis and Bay manages to create a very tense atmosphere at times. It's also a help that we actually care somewhat for the characters too. They're actually portrayed as real people and are actually developed and fleshed out and we empathise for their struggle and buy into their story because they don't come across as one-dimensional or frivolously contrived. The performances are all decent from the cast too, and really add to this - bringing these characters to life effectively. John Krasinski is, by far, the standout, giving a really solid performance here.
However, being a Michael Bay film, flaws are inevitable and 13 Hours has its fair share of problems. Despite actually trying to tell it's story well, Bay can't help but resort to big, over-the-top action sequences - something of a tradition for him now. There's all the typical bayhem you'd expect, from slow-motion action shots to explosions aplenty and war and gun porn in abundance. For a very genuine effort in keeping this story feel real, the action is all awfully contrived and frustratingly Bay-esque. Can he not resort to explosions all the time for every one of his goddamn films? Also, whilst the characters are represented fairly well here, good war films tend to give us the account from both sides but 13 Hours doesn't even take the time to flesh out our antagonists at all - merely potraying them as one-dimensional, faceless terrorists - with no regard for them, basking, instead, in heroism and patriotism and the 'American way'. Clocking in it at around 144 minutes, the runtime of this film can get fairly long in the tooth too. There's a lot of irrelevant scenes that could have been removed to make the film flow more seamlessly and have tighter, more compact storytelling because it drags on and can be rather tedious at times.

In the end though, 13 Hours is far from being a great film. In fact, it's a very flawed film. However, I can't deny that it's pretty entertaining, nonetheless. Michael Bay has certainly tried to make a good film and has partially succeeded - A+ for effort. This is a long, over-stylised and, at times, tedious watch but it's a very well-made film that is actually entertaining and actually good and, whilst not as emotionally hefty as it could be, it's still a fairly dramatic and tense film that puts in right in the forefront of all the chaos and action and really gets us invested into the story. It's Bay's best film yet, and that's saying something. I never thought I'd say that. 13 Hours is a competent, enjoyable B-rate war thriller. Let's keep up the good work Michael Bay!

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is Michael Bay's best film yet, without a doubt. It's dramatic and well-made and entertaining. However, it's still a flawed picture and long way from being great.

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About the Author

Awais Irfan
Founder of Oasis Awais, and avid lover of life, Awais Irfan's love of writing and film is unequivocal. Ever since he was a little kid, he has loved the cinematic experience; so much so, he is studying Film Production in Glasgow and hopes to be the next "big thing" in directing.

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