*NEW* 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI REVIEW *NEW*

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Everything you could expect from a Bay flick and (surprisingly) more.

As an American ambassador is killed during an attack at a U.S. compound in Libya, a security team struggles to make sense out of the chaos.

At first; I didn’t know if I was going to be able to tolerate the relentless and OTT ‘Murica speeches, the nauseating clichéd family conversations and ridiculous banter from the incredibly macho team BUT once the siege took effect, I was hooked.

All that mind numbing rubbish thrown out of the window for a tense, riveting and nail biting thriller. A perfect platform for some very underrated supporting actors to steal the spotlight.

The first 40 minutes really was everything I expected from the Transformers director. It was big, bold with regular Bay stalwart Dion Beebe’s glossy cinematography making even the most grittiest Libyan slum look picturesque.

An incredibly unnecessary and testosterone fuelled stand off with James Badge Dale’s (Flight) cocky Tyrone and a group of Libyan rebels didn’t really give me high hopes. His macho demeanour and cock sure attitude just grated against me BUT once all the machismo and camaraderie between the group had subsided, he was actually quite good.

John Krasinki delivered a solid performance as newbie Jack. A perfect transition from the comedy circuit (The Office USA) to some serious acting. The last thing I watched this guy in was Lip Sync Battle against Anna Kendrick.

David Costabile (Breaking Bad) played the stuffy chief head caught up with the bureaucracy well. Not enough of him in my opinion. A lot more could have been made with his character. BUT it’s a difficult task when you’re trying to stay true to real life events. Something I was surprised to see Bay actually do. The only exaggeration here was, of course, the explosions and carnage.

Once the team of misfits were assigned to the Ambassador’s (Matt Letscher – The Flash) security detail, my interest was peaked. A slow burning thriller was set. The paranoia and tension bubbling away. I was completely caught up in it. Wondering if the casual passer by or cabbie was a possible enemy. Taking a picture of the compound to send to a militant? Or just sending a text? A distressed civilian trying to warn the guys? Or merely a distraction?

As night descended and the inevitable siege took place, a Black Hawk Down style scenario developed. Out manned, outgunned and no reinforcements on the way, 13 men had one hell of a task ahead of them.

You could bank on Bay to deliver an exhilarating and fast paced shoot em up. BUT despite a redemptive and thrilling second half, he still suffered from the same old flaws. The pace was far too long. This could have been cut by a good 30 to 45 minutes and been much better for it. It really did test by the closing minutes.

For all the intense and explosive action (Bay’s specialty), it was tough in parts to catch who was doing what. It was too dark. It helped add to the claustrophobia BUT you soon couldn’t see a damn thing. And then there was too much going on. Random blurs and endless numbers of faceless foes being shot left, right and centre didn’t help.

Toby Stephens (Black Sails) was wasted in his minute role. Anyone could have played the part. His character nothing more than a foot note to highlight the inefficiency and hypocrisy of ‘cutting through the red tape’ just to send support.

I was surprised at the dark humour and satire that popped up in this. Kids running around playing football while growing insurgents were creeping closer and closer. I couldn’t believe it. There was a moment where during the first wave of attack, the gang look over the compound wall to catch a neighbour sitting in his back garden watching the telly. What?!

The closing minutes may have tested as the explosions kept coming BUT it still left a little lump in the throat with a fitting tribute to the lives lost. Accompanied by real news footage of the Libyan civilians that mourned that fateful night.

A little long at the tooth BUT once it going, it was hard hitting and nail biting. A return to form of sorts for the Bay-ster. Good to see him do something other than Transformers.

3/5

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*NEW* THE FINEST HOURS REVIEW *NEW*

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Disney’s dullest hours, more like.

The Coast Guard makes a daring rescue attempt off the coast of Cape Cod after a pair of oil tankers are destroyed during a blizzard in 1952.

A great cast do their best to save this wishy-washy TV movie from being nothing more than a total wash-out. The opening didn’t get things going with a ridiculously cheesy first date between Pine’s Bernie Webber and Holliday Grainger’s Miriam. There was good chemistry between the pair BUT it was far too schmaltzy and frankly unnecessary.

It was strange to see Chris Pine (Star Trek) in a much more subdued role. A fresh change. BUT all the dancing and wedding proposal guff between the couple felt like nothing more than filler before the proper drama kicked off. Tragically, that took a good 30 minutes to happen.

From his fed up expressions and exasperated demeanour, I expected Casey Affleck (Gone Baby Gone) to deliver a really dull performance BUT he was actually quite good. You rooted for the chap as he did everything to keep the tanker from sinking. Michael Raymond-James (Once Upon A Time) was probably the only other memorable crew member. Even if he did play the stereotypical mutineer causing panic among the ranks.

BUT it was all far too corny and laughable. Graham McTavish (The Hobbit) bellowing cliched macho sentiments to generic and unmemorable supporting characters didn’t help. The Chinese whisper sequence with the crew sharing coordinates was unintentionally comical.

Considering the amount of stars in this; the characters were very weak. Pine did everything he could BUT he came off as such a shy simpleton that relied heavily on sheer luck. Miraculously finding the stranded tanker by feeling the waves. Really?

Eric Bana (Black Hawk Dawn) was completely wasted as Daniel Cluff. There was potential. A new captain unfamiliar with the terrain and struggling to control his men. BUT he was very much in the background. Other than sending a whimpering Miriam out into the cold, he was useless.

All the maritime jargon and endless wave surfing didn’t do anything to keep my interest. I was only really hooked when the tanker continued to plunge further into disarray BUT even the Perfect Storm-esque sequences soon dragged on. The CGI got increasingly worse as the little tug boat rode the cartoony waves. The camera work was difficult and disorienting. If the effect was to make you feel sea sick then well done.

This was supposed to be in 3D. Barely anything jumped out or grabbed my attention to warrant it. There wasn’t enough tension, suspense or drama to keep things afloat either. The corny sea songs and defiant speeches were far too cringe-inducing to be taken seriously. Grainger (The Borgias) was left wandering around in the snow with a dull subplot that dealt with a botched rescue from Burt’s past.

I couldn’t help BUT think of Cast Away as the rescue team battled the relentless waves. I realized that I was more engaged in seeing a mad man and his volleyball survive than the people in this flick. The closing act did (finally) deliver a watchable affair as the rescue attempt unfolded.

If the story was true then I couldn’t believe that a rag tag team of inexperienced sea men (Easy now) were able to defy such odds. BUT even after that tense little encounter, it all fizzled out rather quickly and flatly. Leading to a dreadfully dull and incredibly corny finale. The only real surprise that I got out of this was that this was a Disney movie.

Watchable. BUT I fear that if the cast weren’t attached to this then it would have been nothing more than a TV movie at best. Disappointing.

2.5/5