When a military film like "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" comes out, based on how far left or right a military film leans, the box office receipts can usually be predicted. Left gets the film Oscar nominations, critical acclaim and a healthy return, while right means the film makes a ton at the box office, but is critically snubbed and ignored come awards season. There are outliers on both sides, but this trend is usually fairly spot-on. "13 Hours" is going to have problems because it lands somewhere in the middle.
Right wingers hoping for a criticism of Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration will be disappointed and liberals hoping for an in-depth examination of cause and effect will be left wanting. "13 Hours" isn't interested in whether the attack was perpetrated by Ansar al-Sharia or Al-Qaeda, nor does it care about placing the blame on Americans. Instead, the film paints a minute-by-minute account of the men and women on the ground who lived and died on Sept. 11, 2012.
The film follows six CIA contractors working at a secret base a mile down the road from an outpost where the US ambassador to Libya is staying. When the base is attacked, the contractors have to fight their way to the outpost to try and rescue the ambassador, fight their way back to the base, and then hold it long enough so reinforcements can come and evacuate them from the country.
John Krasinski (Jim from "The Office") is our window into these six men. He arrives in Benghazi only a few weeks before the attack and we learn about the setup of the CIA base from his point of view. The other five are played by James Badge Dale ("Iron Man 3"), Max Martin ("The Unit"), Dominic Fumusa ("Nurse Jackie"), Pablo Schreiber (Porn Stache from "Orange is the New Black") and David Denman (Jim's nemesis Roy from "The Office").
Saddled with tons of cliché tough guy dialogue, these six actors still sell every moment of their hellish night. The audience feels their exhaustion, adrenaline and injuries right along with them and it is a testament to Michael Bay's directorial style. RPGs are ricocheting, cars exploding and heads bursting, but Bay never tries to make any of it look cool like he would in a "Bad Boys" or "Transformers" movie.
Even with the clunky dialogue, "13 Hours" is a gripping nail-biter. Dale, Krasinski and Schreiber deserve to be bumped up to full-fledged movie stardom after this. This film is exhausting in its intensity and crafts some of the most breathtaking action sequences since Michael Mann's "Heat."
"13 Hours" is probably the finest modern military action flick since "Black Hawk Down" and deserves to be seen before being judged, regardless of where the political lines are drawn.
"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi"
Dir. Michael Bay
Now Playing at Old Mill Stadium