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13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

After a day of pool-closing and hedge-trimming, I had some hours and decided to take a break from Luke Cage – which my wife isn’t watching yet – to watch 13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.

I’m not going to comment on the politics of the movie, but it is a bit difficult to ignore them, given the proximity of the event. There are a lot of similarities between this movie and Black Hawk Down, but Black Hawk Down was a decade away from the event and didn’t touch on the main political disagreement from it – the pullout after the release of CW3 Michael Durant.

Instead, what I’d like to comment on is that in Black Hawk Down, every character death – and this does not include the Somalis, except for a particular scene with a father and son that actually made an impact – was significant. I don’t know if Michael Bay was trying to make his own Black Hawk Down, but given the similarity of some of the scenes (the chaotic drive through the middle of a hostile city, the medical triage scene, the philosophizing just before going back into the heat of battle) I tend to think he was. The deaths in 13 Hours that were supposed to be so emotional lacked any real strength. No real effort had been put into making these characters human, only superhuman – having a wife and kids doesn’t a great character make.

Michael Bay will never be Ridley Scott, but even Scott is uneven and performs poorly when he has a poor script. The script for Black Hawk Down – also based on a book with the participation of those involved in the event – was a lot stronger than that for 13 Hours. Bay’s usual pyrotechnic display cannot save the movie, especially when everything else is in such broad strokes. The good guys are completely good, the bad guys are moustache-twirlers, and the bureaucrats are complete idiots who are also complete assholes.

The action is fine, but frankly Strike Back does it better on a lot smaller budget. Strike Back is also better at characterization . . . unless one is speaking of women or minorities, but I’ve made that complaint elsewhere.

I give 13 Hours: the Secret Soldiers of Benghazi 2.5 jugs of oddly flammable diesel out of 5. Mediocre action and cardboard characters make this poorly scripted bulletfest a poor choice unless you are a Bay-fan or looking to add fuel to your Benghazigate fire.