I have been working as a film journalist since 2010, dividing the first four years between radio broadcasting and entertainment writing in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. In 2014, I entered Fresh Fiction (FreshFiction.tv) as the features editor. The following year, I stepped into the film critic position at the Denton Record-Chronicle, a daily North Texas print publication. My time is dedicated to writing theatrical film reviews, at-home entertainment columns, and conducting interviews with on-screen talent and filmmakers, as well as hosting a podcast devoted to genre filmmaking (called My Bloody Podcast). I've been married for seven happy years, and I have one son who is all about dinosaurs just like his dad.
Connor Bynum // Film Critic
13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI (2016)
Michael Bay has got to be one of the most consistent directors in all of Hollywood. Sure, his filmography may be loaded with what could best be described as critical punching bags, but they are nevertheless consistent. That same consistency can also be found in the visual and audio quality in Bay’s films. Whether you’re a fan of the Bayhem or not, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the director knows how to make stunning films.
This naturally applies to one of Bay’s more serious (and naturally less talked about) films, 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI. The 2016 war drama is inconspicuously getting a 4K UHD re-release three years after hitting store shelves on Blu-ray disc. As it turns out, a shiny new coat of paint might be enough to convince audiences to give this one another look.
Movie Grade: C-
From our theatrical review:
“[The] most recent conflicts in the Middle East have resulted in a new wave of war movies that depict the harrowing realities of these engagements. Some films, such as LONE SURVIVOR, may focus more on the action than the politics, but almost all have a message of some variety about war. The same can be said of Michael Bay’s new film, 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI.
This movie will have its fans: action junkies, stalwart patriots and folks who just need to kill two hours by watching 13. Some will appreciate the impressive treatment the film has been given, while others might roll their eyes at every corny line of dialogue.
The film is a visceral action flick that is well-photographed and undeniably reverent of the real-life heroes who risked and lost their lives on that fateful day, but we are ultimately let down with a clichéd script and an overly Hollywood production that ignores the harrowing complexities of modern war.”
Video/Audio Grade: A
13 HOURS arrives on 4K UHD through an upscale treatment from a 2K Digital Intermediate, but it feels right at home on the format. Bay’s visual style excels in 4K. Little specks of dirt and beads of sweat on the actors’ faces feel much more realized, bullet casings flying through the air leave subtle puffs of smoke, and explosions light up the night sky with superb visual brilliance.
All of this is fleshed out even further thanks to the inclusion of Dolby Vision and HDR10. With over half of the film’s running time taking place at night, the darker colors of these scenes never feel crushed or artificial. The deep blues and blacks of the night sky are wonderfully contrasted by burning vehicles and muzzle flash from firearms. One scene filmed within a burning building is especially vivid, as deep blacks of toxic smoke billow from bright orange flames.
This disc includes the same Dolby Atmos audio track from the previous Blu-ray release. Regardless, this track more than justifies the film’s Oscar-nominated sound mixing. The definition in this audio track is terrifyingly good. With all the chaos happening on the screen, it could have been so easy to throw gunshot and explosion sounds into the mix and call it a day. But every gun feels accounted for here. The difference between the varying types of weapons being used in any given scene is stunningly realized and gives every action sequence all the more weight.
Extras Grade: C
There are no supplemental features included on the 4K disc, but the packaged Blu-ray carries all special features over from the 2016 release. It should be noted that the included Blu-ray DOES NOT contain the film itself. So, if you’re one of the hardcore fans considering a double dip, be warned this one will have nothing new for you in the extras department.
That said, the extras themselves dive a little deeper into the politics of the real-life attack in Benghazi, as well as focus on the film’s involvement with the real-life heroes of the event.
All extras listed below:
- For the Record: Finding the Truth Amid the Noise
- Uncovering Benghazi’s Secret Soldiers
- Preparing for Battle: Behind the Scenes of 13 HOURS
- Operation: 13 HOURS Premiere
- In Memoriam
Final Grade: B+
13 HOURS may not ever reach the heights of other films such as BLACK HAWK DOWN on a critical level, but the film remains one of the most (if not the most) mature movies Michael Bay has put together. And while the film itself can leave some to be desired, it certainly makes up for it by offering one of the most visceral 4K experiences available.