It is this key point Bay can't stomach. At all. The US Army does not dick around when citizens are in clear and present danger - an entirely commendable policy and trait - but 13 Hours aggrandises the Benghazi embassy attack to the level of a gross national betrayal. Bay lacks the sophistication and talent to deal with the ins and outs what occurred. So, the director turned the material into a simplistic Alamo-style actioner, where six brave paramilitary heroes fend off faceless terrorists emerging in the night across a farmer's field the group dub "zombieland" until the break of dawn and cavalry arrive to send them home. The template is pure John Ford, but 13 Hours' pumped-up machismo and star-spangled tears make it peculiar and unedifying. Ford was a visionary artist pretending he wasn't. Bay is nothing more than a great salesman. That is the mighty difference. The portrayal of paramilitary contractors as corn-fed Iowa boys longing for home and family is hard to take seriously. Nobody forced them to take the gig, Mr. Bay. They were there for a reason: a bumper pay day.
Along with numerous casually racist remarks - "They're bad guys until their not" - the 'secret soldiers' air an infuriating disbelief at the world for not being so easily defined as they long for it to be. As the group mounts a rescue mission on the fallen embassy, they are beset on all sides by friends and foes who all look the same. The soldiers see the world in green night-vision but what they really want is dog black-and-white. If Bay's depiction of the Benghazi incident is above his brain grade, he of course knows how to deliver meaty action scenes and thrilling moments. 13 Hours is a savage spectacle charged with plenty of tension, but unlike Saving Private Ryan, whose opening sequence registered the nerve-shredding terror of combat, Bay's depiction of war is akin to an online gamer going for a kill streak on Call of Duty.
Martyn Conterio | @Cinemartyn