I was a little torn about this one: it stars my beloved John Krasinski, but it’s directed by my arch enemy, Michael Bay. When I saw the trailers in theatres, it wasn’t possible to sit through the two minutes of footage without smirking – yet another opportunity for Bay to wave his proud American flag. Except it’s impossible to feel sympathy for anyone in this movie, since the Americans weren’t supposed to be there in the first place. They’re secret soldiers for a reason – as in, shhh, don’t tell the UN. I passed on the movie while it was in theatres but when I attempted to track it down now that it’s available to rent, the best I could describe it was “that stupid war movie with Chris Pratt.” Because in my mind I’d confused two of my most adored chubby funny guys on TV-turned ripped movie stars. Also: Chris Pratt starred in Zero Dark Thirty. Different war, same shit. And Michael Bay is not Kathryn Bigelow.
The first thing I noticed about this movie is that everybody has a beard. Everybody has a beard! Michael Bay has literally done his casting by watching whatever television shows were available on this in-flight menu (lazily casting a couple from The Office – both of Pam’s beaus!): 24, Orange is the New Black, Nurse Jackie. Then he told all his handsome-but-not-too-handsome TV stars to grow beards. Must be bearded.
John Krasinski plays a contractor – he’s not actually a soldier because of course the Americans aren’t really supposed to be there, it isn’t really an embassy, so they don’t rate real military. They’re hired guns, and they’re resented by the officials they’ve been hired to babysit.
It’s a Michael Bay movie, so you know it’s bloated. It’s bloated with glossy, whispery flashback scenes. It’s bloated with homoerotic, soft porn shots of sweaty muscles getting worked out. It’s exactly the kind of movie where a dude will fight a holy war in shorts and think nothing of it. Where all the characters in Krasinski’s periphery are cardboard cut-outs until Michael Bay brilliantly inserts one piddly little scene in which every single one of them simultaneously Skype their families so that we know they have loved ones at home and are not as expendable as they feel. They’re the same loved ones these guys abandoned to fight a war that isn’t theirs, that they don’t even understand, in a country they don’t care about, unable to distinguish bad guys from good, and won’t be rewarded for either way. It’s real uplifting!
It’s actually fairly mature and restrained for a Michael Bay movie. You would only get medium-belligerent drunk making a drinking game out of spotting crisp American flags waving around in a light breeze. Don’t worry, his patriotism is alive and erect as ever; he’s an apologist for this shitstorm if nothing else. And of course there’s no character development; its excessive 144 minutes are devoted to packing in as many explosions as possible – they still give Mikey a chubby after all this time. He never misses an opportunity to show us a dead body or a dangling limb. He lives for this stuff. Krasinski is woefully out of place, too good for his surroundings. Sticks out like a sore trigger finger. Hopefully he’s learned a lesson, and bought a ridiculously nice car with the pay cheque.
13 Hours is better than all the Transformers movies combined, which isn’t saying nearly enough. There’s still more merit in the first 5 minutes, or any 5 minutes of The Hurt Locker, than in the entire 2.5 hours of this piece of glorious war-porn Americana. God bless Michael Bay.