Heroes are people, too
"I need a bag full of money and a flight to Benghazi," says the leader of Tripoli's backup squad. Yes, 13 Hours is definitely a Michael Bay movie, with dashes of cartoonish comedy -- anyone who isn't a ripped Iraqi vet is a putz, and the one major Libyan character is a total goofball -- rah-rah glory moments, and enough billowing American flags to appease the Ammon Bundy-est patriot.
No one needed Bay to weigh in on Benghazi, a loaded, talked-to-death topic, but it's hard to imagine anyone else getting it this close to right. The director has a relationship with the US military -- they're constantly loaning him helicopters and tanks to blow up in Transformers movies -- and an empathy for the on-the-ground experience. He turned blue-collar drillers into Earth's greatest heroes in Armageddon and he does the same here for men of service. These guys are drawn to the war zone. They only know how to kill. Judge them, root for them, whatever; when they're dodging Molotov cocktails and gunning down faceless militiamen, you feel for them. Ham-fisted scenes of FaceTiming home (that's how phones work now) make it sentimental, but oh well. There's truth there.
And in a movie about Benghazi, an ounce of truth is an accomplishment. I walked out into a post-SOTU America struck by13 Hours' stringent action and how it crosses the objective line; after the skirmish ends, Libyan mothers and sons weeping over the dead bodies of their own soldiers, one of the good guys declares, "This country has to figure its shit out." Is it a joke played for belly laughs or the exhale of a tired warrior? Doesn't matter -- the line, like too many, flops.
13 Hours is a ripe action movie and a messy portrait of American fighters. You, wherever you stand, may not see it that way. And if you're my crazy uncle, you definitely won't see it that way.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.
Matt Patches is Thrillist’s Entertainment editor. He previously wrote for Grantland, Esquire.com, Vulture, The Hollywood Reporter, and The Guardian. His favorite movie is Groundhog Day. Find him on Twitter: @misterpatches.