’13 Hours’ is Bay’s best in years

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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2015)

Directed by Michael Bay

Before 4 wildly unnecessary “Transformers” movies (with a fifth on the way!), director Michael Bay wasn’t the terrible failure he’s known as today. Around the turn of the century, he gave us films like “The Rock,” “Armageddon,” and “Pearl Harbor”—and it seems he’s decided to channel those relative successes in “13 Hours,” a tense and true account of the fateful 9/11 anniversary attack that led to four American deaths at the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. For the first time in over a decade, Bay has made something watchable.

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Ex-Navy SEAL Jack Silva (John Krasinski) arrives in Benghazi with an understanding that it isn’t America’s most stable diplomatic outpost. What he finds just a couple months after he arrives, however, nobody could predict. When U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) visits Benghazi on a short-notice trip with little of his own security, the elite team of ex-Marines and Navy SEALS—Oz (Max Martini), Tonto (Paul Schreiber), Rone (James Badge Dale), Boon (David Denmen), Tig (Dominic Fumusa) and Silva—are tasked with giving him extra security when he’s out in the city. But on the 9/11 anniversary, Ambassador Stevens has no planned events. He remains secure inside his compound. That is, until Libyan militants pounce on the chance to kill a prominent American figure and raid the vulnerable American outpost. Against orders, the secret soldiers attempt a daring rescue mission and become targets in the process.

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Bay brought in the surviving Benghazi soldiers to advise his cast on how to act like proper military men. If you believe the truth told by the men who were there, “13 Hours” is as accurate as it gets. Considering Bay is known mostly for robots and earth-shattering explosions of an apocalyptic nature, something so factual is a huge accomplishment for the director.

Krasinski is, of course, best known for playing Jim on nine seasons of “The Office,” but don’t let his goofy charm fool you. The buff actor is married to Emily Blunt, whose badass role in “Sicario” rivals any male actor I’ve seen recently. Plus, he’s played a soldier before—in 2005’s “Jarhead.” In “13 Hours,” Krasinski rises to the challenge and takes a big step in his career. He prove he’s not a one-trick pony. He and the others give “13 Hours” the heart and humanity it needs to rise above the typical Michael Bay muck. I heard audience members laugh and cry, both signs that this action movie elicited feelings that, frankly, “Transformers” couldn’t have dreamed of provoking. These characters and their stories suck you in.

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This is despite a mostly simple, unimaginative script that gets the job done. The dialogue is effective and believable, but not much else. What’s more gripping than the story is the explosive and exhilarating action. “13 Hours” is a two-and-a-half-hour adrenaline rush full of numbing (but not unrealistic) amounts of gunfire and explosions.

What I’m saying is you could do worse than “13 Hours” this weekend. Don’t let Michael Bay scare you away.

6.5/10

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