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Michael Bay
John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Max Martini
Writing Credits:
Chuck Hogan

As an American ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya, a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.

Box Office:
$50 million.
Opening Weekend
$16,194,738 on 2,389 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R

Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
English Dolby Atmos
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English Dolby Digital 2.0
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
English Audio Description
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 134 min.
Price: $39.99
Release Date: 6/7/2016

• “For the Record: Finding the Truth Amid the Noise” Featurette
• “Uncovering Benghazi’s Secret Soldiers” Featurette
• “Preparing for Battle: Behind the Scenes of 13 Hours” Featurette
• “Operation: 13 Hours Premiere” Featurette
• “In Memoriam” Featurette
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi [Blu-Ray] (2016)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 29, 2016)

In the same vein as 2012’s Zero Dark Thirty, 2016’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi looks at real-life military events in the Middle East. We learn that after the 2011 Libyan civil war, the United States pulled most of their staff from various outposts, but the embassy remains, as does a semi-secret CIA building called “The Annex”. A private military organization called Global Response Staff (GRS) handles security at the latter.

On September 11, 2012, terrorists attack the embassy. In the face of overwhelming forces, the six members of GRS attempt to fight back and defend this location from waves of assaults.

When 13 Hours hit screens in early 2016, some viewed it as an Election Year “statement”. After all, presidential candidate Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State during the events, and she came under ample criticism for her response to the assaults. Would Hours paint Clinton in a bad light? Would it have an impact on her campaign and the election?

The answer seems to be “no” to both questions. Hours makes only glancing reference to Washington, and it never refers to Clinton in any specific way. That side of the story remains almost totally untold, which is fine with me - Hours wants to focus on the military action, not the political side.

As far as I can tell, Hours also failed to impact the campaign. As I write this in May 2016, Clinton’s role in the Benghazi incident remains up for debate and has been a factor into the race, but I don’t sense that Hours had anything to do with that. The movie made little impact that I can discern.

When I learned that Michael Bay directed Hours, I felt surprised. Prior to this, he never handled anything particularly reality-based. Even though 2013’s Pain and Gain told a tale that stemmed from fact, it took such a glib, satirical tone that it didn’t really attempt to depict the truth.

On the other hand, Hours wants to provide the real skinny on the events depicted – in theory, at least. In actuality, unfortunately, Bay uses the real-life terrorist attacks as nothing more than a platform for his usual super-stylized action.

Some critics referred to Hours as the product of a more restrained and mature Bay. I can’t help but wonder what movie they saw – there must be an alternate “Gritty Cut” that doesn’t appear on the Blu-ray.

The version of the film I watched looks, sounds and feels like “classic Bay” from start to finish. In his natural context, “stereotypical Bay” can be highly entertaining. I still enjoy Bay efforts like The Rock and think the director can create fun action flicks.

Bay’s natural super-stylized and manipulative mode of operation seems completely wrong for a tale such as Hours, though, and he does nothing to temper his natural tendencies. As much as Bay wants to believe he created a respectful, honest depiction of events, he actually just churns out another thin, superficial action extravaganza intended to galvanize an audience without regard for any sense of the real world.

This problem extends to all aspects of Hours. The leads get basic exposition that leaves them as nothing more than warm bodies with families that earn depiction solely to pull heartstrings. Of course, we get the gratuitous stuffed-shirt executive who hampers the actions the soldiers want to take as well. The characters are purely black or white: uptight suits, smug, complacent embassy security, and true blue leads who always know best.

We don’t get a sense of gravity in Hours, as Bay’s filmmaking choices emphasize the flash-bang side of things. None of this seems real – it all comes across like videogame violence, so even when characters die, the story provides no emotional impact.

Not that Bay doesn’t try – hoo boy, does Bay strive to push emotional buttons! Always a filmmaker prone to heavy-handed sentiment, I hoped Bay would pull back those tendencies for Hours, but instead, he doubles down and packs the movie with all the emotional manipulation one can imagine.

This is a shame, as there’s clearly an important story to be told here. Unfortunately, 13 Hours got the wrong director to lead it. Michael Bay can’t – or won’t - create a movie with the grit and gravity the narrative needs, so Hours turns into just another superficial, glossy Hollywood action flick.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture A/ Audio A/ Bonus C

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was an excellent transfer.

Sharpness looked terrific at all times. Virtually no unintentional signs of softness materialized, so this was a tight, accurate image. I saw no signs of jaggies or moiré effects, and edge haloes, and the film lacked edge haloes or print flaws.

If the colors teal and orange didn’t exist, could Michael Bay make movies? These hues were omnipresent and heavy, and the disc replicated the source well – even if the actors occasionally took on an Oompa Loompa vibe. Blacks came across nicely, as dark tones were deep and rich, without any muddiness or problems. In addition, low-light shots gave us smooth, clear visuals. All in all, this became a terrific presentation.

I also felt happy with the solid Dolby Atmos soundtrack of 13 Hours. Downconverted to Dolby TrueHD 7.1, the mix offered plenty of opportunities for lively auditory information, and it took good advantage of these. From the opening standoff to road chases to gunfire to explosions to other action elements, the mix filled the speakers on a frequent basis. The track placed information in logical spots and blended all the channels in a smooth, compelling manner.

Audio quality was also positive. Music sounded lively and full, while effects delivered accurate material. Those elements showed nice clarity and kick, with tight low-end. Speech was always distinctive and concise, too. This mix worked well for the film.

All of the package’s extras appear on a second disc, and these consist of featurettes. For the Record: Finding the Truth Amid the Noise runs eight minutes, two seconds and provides notes from author Mitchell Zuckoff, US Army Ranger Kris “Tanto” Paronto, former Marine Mark “Oz’ Geist, producer Erwin Stoff, screenwriter Chuck Hogan, former Navy SEAL Joost Janssen, diplomatic services consultant Dale “Chip” McElhattan, and actors Matt Letscher and John Krasinski. They discuss the film’s background and pursuit of realism. A few nuggets emerge, but much of the piece feels self-congratulatory.

During the 27-minute, 34-second Uncovering Benghazi’s Secret Soldiers, we hear from Krasinski, Paronto, Janssen, Geist, Zuckoff, Hogan, McElhattan, Stoff, former Marine John Tiegen, military advisor Harry Humphries, and actors Pablo Schreiber, James Badge Dale, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, Demetrius Grosse, and Max Martini. The featurette examines the real participants in the movie’s story as well as factual issues and the actors’ approaches to their roles.

Like “Truth”, “Uncovering” comes with some interesting tidbits, and it’s good to hear more from the actual people involved. Nonetheless, it continues the prior featurettes fairly superficial feel and seems more like it exists to praise the project’s realism than anything else.

Next comes Preparing for Battle: Behind the Scenes of 13 Hours. It lasts 26 minutes, 24 seconds and features Stoff, Krasinski, Dale, Screiber, Martini, Grosse, Humphries, Janssen, McElhatten, Denman, director of photography Dion Beebe, stunt coordinator Kenny Bates, production designer Jeffrey Beecroft, co-producer Michael Gase, location manager Christian McWilliams, special effects supervisor Terry Glass, chief special effects technician Terry Flowers, and actors Alexia Barlier and David Giuntoli.

The show covers director Michael Bay’s approach to the material, cinematography, sets and visual design, actor training, stunts and action, locations, and effects. Of the three featurettes, “Battle” includes the most information, but that doesn’t make it especially good. Once again, we find a decent array of details but these tend to get submerged under the promotional tone.

Operation: 13 Hours Premiere goes for three minutes and features Bay, Paronto, Schreiber, Geist, Tiegen, and Krasinski. This takes us to the movie’s debut at Cowboys Stadium in Dallas. It’s total fluff.

Finally, we get a two-minute, 58-second In Memoriam reel. It offers names and photos of those who died in the attack depicted in the film. This becomes a decent tribute.

A third disc provides a DVD copy of Hours. It includes none of the Blu-ray’s extras.

In other hands, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi could’ve been a gritty, powerful and emotional tale. Under Michael Bay’s eye, however, it turns into just another cartoon war story. The Blu-ray offers excellent picture and audio but lacks substantial bonus materials. Hours becomes a superficial disappointment.

Viewer Film Ratings: 4.0714 Stars Number of Votes: 14
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