Del and Mladen review ‘ 13 Hours’

Image courtesy of Paramount Pictures.

“13 Hours” Starring John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, and James Badge Dale. Directed by Michael Bay. 144 Minutes. Rated R.

Del’s take

Sorry, all you fine folk who refer to Hillary Clinton as “Hildabeast.” You were hoping “13 Hours,” the new Michael Bay docudrama about the 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, and a subsequent attack on a CIA outpost about a mile away, would be the stake driven through the heart of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Ain’t gonna happen. Clinton’s name is not uttered once in the two hour-plus presentation. You can go back to snuffling through the hog wallow for some stinky nugget to blow out of proportion so your insane (GOP candidate of choice) can have a chance in November.

The folks who take it on the chin in this compelling new movie are the American military and the State Department (Clinton was secretary of state at the time, but again, her name is never mentioned), both of whom are portrayed as either absent or ineffective. It is a harrowing experience, blessedly devoid of conspiracy theories or jingoistic flag-waving.

People actually clapped as the credits rolled.

The story is about an American GRS contractor named Jack Silva (John Krasinski) who joins a team of former SEALS and Delta Force soldiers charged with the protection of a CIA station in Benghazi. Meanwhile, about a mile away, the American ambassador to Libya visits a compound on the anniversary of 9/11. Before the night is over Islamic militants attack the compound. The GRS soldiers want to help defend it, but their CIA boss (David Costabile) refuses to let them go. Finally, they take matters into their own hands and fight their way into the compound, but it is too late for the ambassador, who has died in a fire set by the attackers. The soldiers then fight their way back to the CIA compound, which comes under repeated attack as they plead for U.S. military intervention. But none ever comes.

The La-Z-Boy quarterbacks who get high from huffing their own gasses love to blame Clinton for the debacle, but the movie suggests it was simple bureaucratic inertia, not a Hildabeast dislike of the military, that resulted in the tragedy. The hot-air snogglers won’t accept that, but there you go. If Adolf Hitler had been secretary of state, they would have blamed Obama.

Acting is quite good. Krasinski sheds his goofy “Office” persona for a serious role and carries it with surprising gravity. And, ladies (and some of the gentlemen) will notice he’s nicely ripped for the part. The others are all equally effective, and as a viewer you will forget they are actors and empathize with them as human beings.

As for the movie itself, Bay recuses himself from his usual absurd, over-the-top grandiosity and turns in a tense, tightly focused narrative that avoids, for the most part, the kind excessive nationalistic pomposity you saw in “Pearl Harbor.”

I’m not a fan of Hillary Clinton and have no intention of voting for her, unless confronted with a GOP candidate so utterly dangerous I have no choice but to vote against him. But to hold her accountable for what happened at Benghazi is ridiculous – a million miles of red tape and ten thousand GS-14s stood between her and Libya.

This movie says as much, and if some of the Hillary haters don’t get that, well, they deserve whatever nutbag they elect.

I rate this movie a solid B, possibly a B+. See it in a movie theater.

Mladen’s take

There was a couple of old timers behind me and a couple of middle agers in front of me while I stood in line to buy a ticket to see “13 Hours.” The old timers and the middle agers were acquainted. They chatted for a moment.

“What are you seeing?” asked one of the middle agers.

“Benghazi,” responded an old timer.

“Benghazi,” not “13 Hours.” No doubt the couple behind me watches Fox News and Listens to Limbaugh because they weren’t at the theater for entertainment. They were at the theater on a mission. That mission, I suspect, was to reinforce in their minds that Hillary Rodham Clinton, Democrat running for president, and Obama, Democrat in the White House, abandoned U.S. patriots to a mob of Libyan terrorists more than three years ago. Four Americans died in the ensuing two-day, on-again, off-again gun battle.

I also assume the couple standing behind me was disappointed. Del is correct. “13 Hours” points the finger of fault at, principally, the CIA station chief in Benghazi. He refused to let the mercenaries (i.e. former Special Operations Forces troops) hired to protect the poorly disguised CIA station in Benghazi assist the people trapped in the American consulate under attack just one mile down road.     

Where facts stand and were “13 Hours” fills gaps when facts are unknown, I don’t know, but, unlike Del, I hesitate treating any product from Hollywood as accurate history. “13 Hours” is a decent film, nothing more. Generally, the characters are likable and the action intimate. This movie isn’t about remote control warfare from standoff distances. Here, bullets hit with a thunk and mortar shrapnel cuts through muscle and bone. The violence is the popping of small- and medium-caliber ammunition and the whir of RPGs. 

Bay, the director, tries to infuse humanity into the mercenaries contracted to protect CIA personnel by portraying them as fathers and friends, but it was ineffective. They were in Libya by choice, rather than orders. That made them tough to appreciate as family men.

The film has its moments, particularly toward the end, of flag-waving sentimentalism, but it’s not putrid. And, it’s at the end that Bay was the most daring. “13 Hours” ends with the camera panning the battlefield outside the CIA compound. There, amid the torn white fabric, now stained red, of what once might have been a plant hothouse or animal pen with a cloth roof to protect against the sun, Libyan women and children wept at the corpses of their loved ones.

“13 Hours” is a B and worth seeing in the theater, but, be warned, the last half is bloody.     

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a former journalist and author.

“Transformers” Starring Shia LaBeouf, Megan Fox, Josh Duhamel, John Voight, John Turturro. Directed by Michael Bay. 144 minutes. Rated PG.

Mladen’s take

It’s becoming a habit, one I must shed, or, before I know it, it’ll end with me finding something redeeming about the Bush administration.

“Transformers” is another movie — “Bug” falls into the same category — that does one brief thing right: forcing me to temper an otherwise bitter review that’s based on the dozens of things that went wrong.

The film’s nearly saving grace happens toward the end.

Bad-bot Megatron, sprawled on a crushed roadway after falling from a skyscraper during battle with good-bot Optimus Prime, finds itself near a human.

The four-story-tall robot utters, “Disgusting” and, using its index finger, flicks the human dozens of feet into a car.

Hilarious, because that’s the way I feel about humanity.

It’s too bad my index finger isn’t large enough to flick a grown man through the air. Then again, I’d have to use the finger ceaselessly for years to flick everybody that needs flicking.

“Transformers” is visually glorious crap. The movie is a vast advertisement for toys, GM vehicles that never get dirty and the Air Force. See it for no other reason than this: It’s cheaper now that it can be rented on DVD than when it was in theaters.

Del’s take

You’ll have to forgive Mladen. A big walrus of a guy flicked him off and he’s still hanging from a branch by the waistband of his Hanes.

It’s cut off the circulation to his brain.

Of course “Transformers” is crap, Mladen. Were you expecting “Anna Karenina”?

I too was expecting to hate “Transformers,” for the following reasons:

It was directed by Michael Bay, who managed to turn Pearl Harbor into a thrill ride at Universal.

And I could never keep track of who’s who: Is Vomitor a good robot or a bad robot?

Finally, if nature called at 3 in the morning and, on your way to the bathroom, you stepped on one of the approximately 10,000 pieces of Transformer toys left on the floor by your nephews, well, you can forget making it to the toilet.

But I was pleasantly surprised by “Transformers.” It’s a fun story told in a fun way.

The pace is fast, the dialogue snappy, the special effects mind-blowing and it never, ever takes itself seriously.

Casting Shia LaBeouf in the lead role was smart – his Ritalin-deprived approach plays nicely with the movie’s other parts. And Megan Fox is sufficiently sexy to compel LaBeouf’s romantic fantasies – clumsily adolescent fantasies – without posing any serious threat to what I’m assuming is his virginity.

If you accept “Transformers” for what it is – a bit of innocent fun that requires 144 minutes of your life – you won’t be disappointed.

Now, somebody help Mladen down from that tree.

Mladen Rudman is a former journalist and technical editor. Del Stone Jr. is a journalist and author.