Michael Bay "13 Hours" Captures Catastrophe, Confusion and Insanity of Benghazi. image via Paramount

Michael Bay “13 Hours” Captures Catastrophe, Confusion and Insanity of Benghazi.
Image via Paramount, John Krasinski as Jack Silva, who delivers the performance of his career.

… Really, it’s best to let “13 Hours” come at you like a piece of hyperkinetic abstract art, drenched in diesel, blood and testosterone. Beebe, doing his most striking handheld work since Michael Mann’s “Collateral” and “Miami Vice,” captures images of staggering brutality, but there’s an eerie seductiveness to his palette as well… – Justin Chang [Variety]

AMERICANS KNOW the story but there is no way to prepare for the unrelenting onslaught of Michael Bay’s film, 13 Hours. Once it begins you simply have to hang on.

“I feel like I’m in a f—ing horror movie,” one of the GRS soldiers spits.

Watching it I got the same feeling. But it’s not because the film is political. It’s not. Unless you think taking the side of the slaughtered American heroes is political, or that filming from the point of view that these brave men, and women, were left for sitting ducks in Benghazi, Libya is too.

What I couldn’t stop thinking to myself, did anyone in the White House, Pentagon, State Department ever stop to ask one question: What happens if everything turns to shit?

It’s not a shocking thing for political leaders, whatever the party, to ask. In fact, if you’re going to set up a diplomatic outpost in the middle of Hell it’s the most obvious question.

“When everything went wrong, six men had the courage to do what was right,” says Michael Bay, director of “The Rock,” “Bad Boys,” “Armageddon,” “Pearl Harbor” and “Transformers” (all of them). There’s a built-in prejudice against Bay on this one because of the films he’s done before, however, he proves the Benghazi terrorist attack was a film tailor-made for his skills. Catastrophe and confusion go together in combat zones, doubly so for the Benghazi attack, so any through line or even good faith effort to make sense of what and how it all unfolded is impossible.

What 13 Hours does do brilliantly is put the audience in the eye of the chaos where emotions and efforts to survive collide in the unfolding calamity.

We have to step outside the movie to digest it.

If there’s anything that screams from 13 Hours it’s a question of foreign policy choices. In Libya, it was the fateful decision to join allies, led by the French, who were determined to pull Gaddafi from power regardless of cost.

Understanding the diplomatic impulse to expand to the Benghazi consulate, the heroic intent of Chris Stevens, all of it, what strikes me most seems so obvious today. Everyone involved in the decision to maintain the Benghazi location, when other nations evacuated, were involved in a strategy so fraught with lack of through thought that it’s hard in hindsight to excuse the decisions.

There is no comfort for the Administration or the entire foreign policy establishment here but it’s not Michael Bay’s fault, or due to any bias of the filmmakers. There is no conservative imprint on the screenplay, adapted from Mitchell Zuckoff’s book; no one is blamed beyond the normal complaints any soldier would have for being left without hope of rescue built into the mission.

People who don’t like the film, or claim it’s political, can’t handle the truth. That U.S. foreign policy is in shambles in the Middle East. It doesn’t take someone on the Council on Foreign Relations to make this assessment.

13 Hours reveals who we are as Americans, regardless of your politics. We are heroes, idealists, and above all else, usually unprepared for what happens when we get involved in other people’s business.

This film is important because it relentlessly portrays the dangers and raw emotions of the heroes who fought and died and survived to rescue an unraveling nation, knowing that no one at home had any plans drawn up for their rescue.

But “it’s as authentic, I think, as you’re going to be able to get,” Mr. Geist said. All but one of the core operatives have seen it, he added. “I didn’t hear a negative comment.” [New York Times]