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New Release Review - 13 HOURS

Dramatisation of the 2012 assault on a US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya.



Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Michael Bay

Starring: John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, James Badge Dale



To call 13 Hours propaganda would be an insult to that particular school of manipulative cinema. Bay simply doesn't have the skill to sell a political stance. To view the movie as anything more than a bad Assault on Precinct 13 knockoff is to give its director far too much credit.



For the past two decades, director Michael Bay has divided cinephiles like no other filmmaker. Depending on your point of view he's either a master of spectacle or a hack who doesn't know the first thing about the basics of cinematic storytelling. In bringing the story of the September 11th 2012 attack on a US diplomatic outpost in the Libyan city of Benghazi to the screen, it seemed Bay was set to divide cinema-goers on political lines.
Benghazi, and Hilary Clinton's lack of decisive action on that night, could be the make or break issue for US voters in the upcoming election, and it would seem from the outset that Bay's film is the most lavish party political broadcast ever created on behalf of the Republican party. From the beginning we have a conflict between gun-toting warriors and Ivy league educated intellectuals over how to deal with the security of the compound. A six-man team of CIA 'security contractors', led by Rone (James Badge Dale) and Jack (John Krasinksi), is assigned the task of securing the location and immediately find themselves bickering with 'The Chief' (David Costabile) over how to deal with the local populace.
Only Bay could make a movie that indulges in homophobia and homoeroticism within the same scene. While Jack argues with the effeminate chief in his office, Bay cuts back and forth to the courtyard, where a sweaty, half naked Rone pulls a tire behind him in a scene even Pasolini would find too raunchy. Throughout I kept waiting for a Top Gun-esque "Your ass is mine!" line.
Women have never fared well in Bay's film, but with most of his female cast clad in niqabs, opportunities for up-skirt shots simply don't present themselves here. There is however the classic Bay blonde in the form of a CIA officer who initially bickers with our bearded heroes before developing a case of damp panties when they later assert their alpha male ways during the attack.
As for that attack, well it's probably Bay's best work to date, but that's all relative of course. He's still clueless when it comes to conveying geography, so it's difficult to get your head around where the various characters are at any given time. No attempt is made to humanise the attackers, reduced here to a throng of zombies in soccer jerseys and headscarves.
To call 13 Hours propaganda would be an insult to that particular school of manipulative cinema. Bay simply doesn't have the skill to sell a political stance. To view the movie as anything more than a bad Assault on Precinct 13 knockoff is to give its director far too much credit. It's only when the film has ended that it really shows its true colours; after a roll call of the four victims of the siege - Ambassador Christopher Stevens, diplomat Sean Smith, and CIA contractors Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty - the film distastefully dedicates itself not to all four, but merely the latter pair.
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