Like Transformers without the Transformers, Michael Bay once again can't control a camera to save his life while trying to remake Black Hawk Down without the talent of Ridley Scott to fix it. 13 Hours isn't awful even though it started off that way. The first half of this true story is an unfocused mess as if someone took scissors to the film reel and tried to cut a kirigami chain out of it. It felt like Bay had sixteen cameras rolling at all times no matter the context or tone of the scene, and was compelled to show the audience what was happening from every possible angle of every moment, giving each camera a good shake on top of it. You'd be shocked to know that this was nauseating. The opening act doesn't do much beyond establishing our heroes, and their families back at home, but somehow makes this simple concept frustratingly convoluted due to a nonsensical mess of editing, camera jostling, and inconsistent pacing that was so distracting I had to actually look away from the screen every few minutes just to let my eyes rest. Maybe I'm getting too old? And you can forget context. I had no idea what their objective was, why they were there, who they were fighting, and who I should care about besides John Krasinski's character.
|"Pkjhew! Braow! Kerpunggg!"|
I fully understand that, to a certain degree, not having context for the combat was intentional as to bring us closer to the confusion the real men of this story experienced in 2012. There is a skillful and disciplined art to doing so, which Michael Bay couldn't be bothered with until miraculously he decides out of nowhere to begin attempting to do just that more than halfway through the film. At 144 minutes, it felt more like 200, but at least the second half made it worth my time.
|"Aagh! Aaarrgh! Grrraaah!"|
When it all winds down, my last gripe is with an ending that just wouldn't end. It's disjointed and goes on a wee bit too long. There were a couple of beautiful moments that would have made for powerful closing frames to leave the audience with, but Bay had to drive home the American pride just a little too hard for my taste and it robbed the film of some honest poignancy. Some.
Ultimately, 13 Hours satisfies, but you have to be prepared to tolerate a mess of an opening act at odds with a plot that develops like sludge before it opens up and kicks you in the ass and heart. Thankfully, it's not a straight-jawed American flag waving headache the entire way through. You'll laugh plenty, probably cheer, and you might even cry.
- J.G. Barnes