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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Review

It may not be cool to like a Michael Bay movie, but 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (that subtitle, though way more informative than the title, may be a wee bit on the nose) easily bests any of his movies starring robots in disguise. It is even better than his last non-Transformers flick, the entertaining, overlong Pain & Gain. In fact, 13 Hours is probably Bay’s best film since 1998’s Armageddon and one of the critically maligned filmmaker’s top three films ever. That says a lot for a non-awards-bait movie released to theaters in the frigid wasteland of January.

This fact-based film recounts the terrorist-attack-cum-political-football that resulted in the death of the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher). Due to the movie’s alternate bad guy, the a-hole in charge of the off-the-books CIA base located nearly next door to the diplomatic outpost that was attacked, the six highly skilled soldiers—one of Kim Bauer’s boyfriends (James Badge Dale), “The Office”’s Jim (John Krasinski) and Roy (David Denman), Pornstache from “Orange Is the New Black” (Pablo Schreiber), Nurse Jackie’s husband (Dominic Fumusa) and a guy recognizable from countless television shows and movies (Max Martini)—housed at the base are unable to save Stevens but allowed to participate in their own private Alamo. 

Bay’s ever-present faults (the film is at least 20 minutes too long; patriotism is wielded like a cudgel) are no match for his unquestionable technical prowess. From the frighteningly tense atmosphere of Benghazi circa 2012 to the attack on the not-quite-an-embassy to the superior final act that unfolds like John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13, 13 Hours confirms the director as a top-rate stager of modern warfare.