13 Minutes jostles my pet peeve with disaster movies; almost as if the movie is trying to push me over the edge.
While the action sub-genre can range in entertainment and emotion, it always grinds my gears when filmmakers delay the inevitable disaster by introducing a slew of characters and insisting that everyone receives a detailed backstory. While it’s true that audiences vie for compelling stories and convincing characters, the disaster movie genre is an exception because everyone has been sold on the film’s spectacle.
These narrative detours are usually acknowledged and finished by the end of the first act, but 13 Minutes occupies its first hour with wishy-washy character development. After that, a vicious tornado eventually rips through and it’s really scary….for quite literally 13 minutes – they weren’t playing around. The remaining act focuses on the fallout after the storm, and how a small community reels from this close call while reassessing their own personal struggles. This may seem like the movie investing effort towards tying up individual arcs and stories, but the resolutions are either unsatisfying or cornball.
Instead of comparing itself to goofy popcorn flicks by director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow), 13 Minutes asks to be considered along the same rank as J.A. Bayona’s breathtaking drama The Impossible – it’s no contest as to which film delivers better results.
Let’s say I’m missing the point. What if 13 Minutes isn’t actually a conventional, crowd-pleasing “disaster movie”, and it’s supposed to be resembling an ensemble character study of people in sudden peril. Simply put: the film spreads itself too thin. If 13 Minutes had narrowed its focus down to only a few characters (just as The Impossible did) instead of including four different families and then dividing their screen time between all of their members, the movie may have had a shot at success. Unfortunately, it’s a bloated and tedious experience that has the gall to tease viewers with intense sequences that are extremely effective but way too brief.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie