13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi a relentless assault on the senses
IN A brief respite from the Transformers franchise, director Michael Bay puts his testosterone-fuelled spin on real-life heroism in this heavy-handed dramatisation of the September 2012 attack on a compound in Libya, which resulted in the death of a US ambassador.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi is a relentless assault on the senses, which provides the film-maker with ample opportunity to fetishise the spilling of enemy blood at the hands of strapping American men.
Chuck Hogan's script, adapted from a 2014 non-fiction book penned by Boston University professor Mitchell Zuckoff, offers little in the way of political context or serious debate about the complexities of life in the conflict-scarred region.
Instead, the film reduces tragic events to a series of breathlessly staged action sequences between the forces of good (anyone with an American accent) and evil.
Editing is frenetic, reducing some skirmishes to a blur of severed limbs and exploding heads.
Jack Silva (John Krasinski), David Benton (David Denman), Mark Geist (Max Martini), Kris Paronto (Pablo Schreiber), John Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa) and Tyrone Woods (James Badge Dale) are former Navy SEALs, Marines and Army Rangers, who risk their lives protecting US officials under the monicker of the Global Response Staff (GRS).
In September 2012, these muscle-bound men are stationed at a top-secret CIA compound in Benghazi, under the watchful eye of a station chief called Bob (David Costabile).
"You guys bunk here. You're not CIA, you're hired help," snarls Bob, making clear his disdain for the gun-toting squad.
The US Ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens (Matt Letscher), visits on the eve of the September 11 attacks.
That night, Islamic militants storm the stronghold where the ambassador is staying with his aide Sean Smith (Christopher Dingli) and a small bodyguard detail.
Members of GRS defy direct orders and intervene, repelling wave after wave of deadly bullets and mortars to prevent further loss of life.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi is a rousing tribute to the members of the GRS, who faced overwhelming odds and protected the majority of the CIA staff based in Libya.
Dialogue is clunky and occasionally laughable, hammering home the brotherly bonds that withstand each deafening salvo.
The fluttering Stars And Stripes, sweat-drenched male posturing and fervently patriotic imagery of men in uniform striding in slow-motion towards their destiny have been recycled by Bay so often, even he must be tiring of them by now.
13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI (15, 144 mins) Action/Thriller/Romance. John Krasinski, David Denman, Max Martini, Pablo Schreiber, Dominic Fumusa, James Badge Dale, David Costabile, Matt Letscher, Christopher Dingli. Director: Michael Bay.