Richard and CP24 anchor Nneka Elliott talk about Michael Bay’s latest, the action film “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” a buddy cop flick called “Ride Along 2” starring Ice Cube and Kevin Hart and the Edsel of the animation world, “Norm of the North.”
Richard and “Canada AM” host Marci Ien talk about the Michael Bay action film “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” the buddy cop flick “Ride Along 2” with Ice Cube and Kevin Hart and a contender for worst film of the year, “Norm of the North.”
Making a war movie is hard work with long hours and tough conditions. According to 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi star Pablo Schreiber making a war movie with Michael Bay is extra difficult.
“Everyone who has worked with Michael Bay has told me the set can be a challenging place to work,” he says of the Transformers director. “I got all these stories to prepare but ultimately nothing anybody says can prepare you for that experience. He works faster than any director working. We do about 75 set ups a day, which is massive especially when each of them is like its own action sequence. It’s an insane amount of work. He demands a lot from you. It’s very necessary that you come prepared, that you are ready to perform any piece of the movie at any given time.”
The Canadian born actor and winner of the We Love to Hate You Award at the 2014 Young Hollywood Awards for his work as George “Pornstache” Mendez on Orange Is the New Black, says Bay took him by surprise during the 2015 shoot in Malta.
“There’s a scene at the end where a convoy is rolling in and we don’t know if they are friendly or bad,” he says, “and it is one of the emotional peaks of the movie. For me it was a scene I had checked off as an actor as one I had to be ready and prepared for. Then he shot it a week before we were supposed to shoot it. I had about five minutes to prepare. He said, ‘Let’s go on the roof and get that last sequence.’ He started setting up cranes. To be ready at any moment for whatever he’s going to throw at you is very important. As actors all six of us ended leaving there feeling like if we had gotten through that experience we could deal with anything.”
When I ask if the chaotic set conditions were Bay’s way of not so subtly exposing his actors to the same kind of unpredictable situations their characters were dealing with, he laughed.
“I’m not sure how much forethought was put into that vibe, but it was definitely effective and it works. As actors we were constantly disoriented and didn’t quite know where we were and didn’t know where we were going to be on any given day.”
Schreiber plays Kris “Tanto” Paronto, a former U.S. Army Ranger who was one of six CIA security contractors working in Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012 when when well-armed Libyan militants—using weapons pilfered from former Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi’s abandoned arsenals—invaded the American embassy. Their attempt to rescue ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Information officer Sean Smith led to a harrowing thirteen-hour battle.
The thirty-seven year old actor met Tanto and says he felt a great responsibility in playing a real person who was on set and would eventually see the film but adds that director Bay tried to keep show the humanity of the story’s heroes.
“Michael Bay made this movie and he normally make these big extravaganzas but this is not a superhero movie,” he says. “This is a movie about very, very real human beings who behaved extraordinarily under the most difficult circumstances.”
The word subtle is never used in reference to Michael Bay. On film the “Transformers” filmmaker has never left a bullet unfired or ever met a building he didn’t want to blow up. His films are frenetic odes to carnage and his latest one, “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” takes a page out of the recent past and gives it the Bay Bias.
Based on the 2013 nonfiction book “13 Hours” by Mitchell Zuckoff, the bulk of the film takes place on the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks. Rone Woods (James Badge Dale), Jack Da Silva (John Krasinski), Oz Geist (Max Martini), Bub Doherty (Toby Stephens), Tanto Paronto (Pablo Schreiber) and Boon (David Denman) are tough guys with 1000 yards stares. They are former Navy SEALS, Marine Force Recon and Army Special Forces now working as CIA security contractors in in Benghazi, Libya in a top-secret facility so undercover it doesn’t officially exist.
The city is a hellhole known as the most violent place on earth. When well-armed Libyan militants—using weapons pilfered from former Prime Minister Muammar Gaddafi’s abandoned arsenals—invade the American embassy the contractors, located about a mile away from the attack, want to help but are ordered to stand down by their on-site CIA chief. As the fighting intensifies they spring into action—“Things change fast in Benghazi,” they snarl.—launching a rescue mission for ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and Foreign Service Information officer Sean Smith.
There’s more—things blow up and bullets fly—and it is public record, but there will be no spoilers here.
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is a fast and furious look at an event the ripples of which are still being felt today, but this is a Michael Bay movie so it is unburdened by the weight of controversy. Instead the politics are downplayed—there is no mention of then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or President Obama—and it is presented as an action film.
On that level it works. Bay knows how to build tension and entertain the eye. He indulges his artier side with some beautifully composed photography and throws in some interesting details to bring the action alive. For instance, the city is such a chaotic place the locals barely notice the mounting violence as they watch soccer as buildings explode just down the block. “Just another Tuesday night in Benghazi,” says Da Silva.
Unfortunately Bay is so in love with his images he drops the ball on the story. This is a tale of men who stepped up and put their lives on the line despite bureaucratic interference. The contractors should be complex characters, balancing their stateside lives with their training as warriors and while the movie tries to explore that divide, it does so in the most Michael Bay way as possible. Instead of investigating the things that drive them we are treated to an sketchy subplot regarding Da Silva’s family that sheds little light on how his job affects his wife and daughters or vice versa. No amount of scenes showing these men Skyping with their families or lovingly gazing at photos of their babies will do enough to humanize them when they are so underwritten. Bay emphasizes the action in Benghazi, but choses to ignore the emotional side except in the most superficial of ways.
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” could have been a fascinating and timely study of men juggling their jobs with complicated families lives but instead it is just another Michael Bay movie.