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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi Review

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A ferocious re-enactment of the attacks by militants on the US diplomatic outpost in Benghazi in Libya, from the perspective of the six-man team trying to guard it.

★★★★★

Pulling in more than $5 billion at the box office is no mean feat. Michael Bay’s work is the epitome of the American blockbuster, pleasing crowds the world over, but many critics remain stubbornly unmoved. Maybe that’s why Bay has shelved high-octane sturm und drang for now and applied his talents to more thoughtful material. Hence 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi, a dramatic reconstruction of the 2012 attacks by militants on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, as seen by the security team tasked with its defence.

The movie’s focus is ex-SEAL-turned-security officer Jack Silva, played by The Office’s John Krasinski. He’s transformed himself from average-schlub to ripped action hero. Once you get past the suspicion that he’s going to glance wearily into the camera at any moment, he’s highly believable as the semi-reluctant combatant in a battle that looks impossible to win.

There’s little stillness to counteract the chaos and we never really get to know these men.

On arrival in Benghazi, Silva is picked up by Tyrone Woods (James Badge Dale), who tells him, “You can’t tell the good guys from the bad.” That sets the tone for what follows. When the attacks come, it’s literally a bloody mess. Vastly outnumbered, Silva, Woods and their team fight to keep dozens of militants at bay until back-up arrives.

The resultant battle is long and brutal, an inexorable collage of lost limbs and splaying blood, all presented in Bay’s signature fast edit, slo-mo style. It’s extremely tough to watch.

No doubt Bay is hoping 13 Hours... will follow in the footsteps of 2014’s American Sniper. Unlike Clint Eastwood’s surprise hit, however, there’s little stillness to counteract the chaos and we never really get to know these men. Aside from perfunctory backstory and a token collage of Skype sessions with loved ones back home, Silva and his armour-plated buddies may as well be, well, robots.

Bay squanders the potential to explore the nuances of a politically sensitive issue and instead descends into a gruesome display of war porn.