Pablo Schreiber (“Pornstache” from Orange is the New Black) anchors Michael Bay’s 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, an entertaining dramatization of the standoff between Libyan terrorists and American mercenaries on September 11 and 12, 2012. Making a detail of bodyguards the heroes, Bay throws Bob, the director of a secret C.I.A. compound, under the bus, suggesting that his reticence to interfere, once terrorists had attacked the American Embassy, cost the American ambassador and a few others their lives. In the 45 minute setup Bay also implicates the Congress that cut funding for security for the Embassy. Showing the peaceful side of Islam, 13 Hours is not Islamophobic. Nor is it jingoistic, even if one of the characters compares the situation to the Alamo. Ultimately, the movie settles on a non-interventionist ethic while celebrating the heroism of the mercenaries and evoking the landscape of a failed state. After blowing up Decepticons and Autobots, it’s a relief to watch Bay focus his energy on human-on-human combat. Edited well, with one slo-mo sequence and one sequence from the P.O.V. of a missile, the action is largely coherent. Firefights are punctuated by comic relief. The score, unless used to compound the anxiety, is a drag, used needlessly all but once.

By Alec Julian & Carrie White


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