Skip to main content

Midvale Journal

Dan's Review: "13 Hours" a thrilling view of a senseless tragedy

Jan 16, 2016 01:11AM ● By Dan Metcalf

David Denman, John Krasinski and Pablo Schreiber in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi - © 2015 Paramount

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (Paramount)

Rated R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language.

Starring James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, Max Martini, Dominic Fumusa, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Toby Stephens, Freddie Stroma, David Costabile, Alexia Barlier, Andrei Claude, David Giuntoli, Matt Letscher, Demetrius Grosse, Mike Moriarty, David Furr, Kevin Kent, Christopher Dingli.

Written by Chuck Hogan, based on the book 13 Hours by Mitchell Zuckoff.

Directed by Michael Bay.



Oh yeah, Benghazi. This single moment in history is the high-water mark for the polarization of American politics - more than 9/11, the Civil War or even the Teapot Dome scandal (look it up). It was inevitable that Hollywood would capitalize on the debacle that killed 4 Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11, 2012, less than two months before a presidential election. In its wake, Benghazi has spawned more political angst than Donald Trump and Sean Penn could muster locked in a room together. Given the event’s potential for complex debate and political repercussions in another election year, who should be the levelheaded, pragmatic artisan director to take on a movie about Benghazi? Why Michael Bay, of course.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is told from the point of view from six American security contractors assigned to protect a secret CIA annex near A U.S. consulate in Benghazi. As the 11th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks approaches, the men work to protect the CIA base while offering support to Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Lescher) as he negotiates with local leaders to help build a democracy in the country left ravaged by the revolution that ousted Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. The team is comprised of leader Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale), Jack Silva (John Krasinski), Kris “Tanto” Paranto (Pablo Schreiber), Dave “Boon” Benton (David Denman), John “Tig” Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa) and Mark “Oz” Geist (Max Martini).

On September 11, 2012, rebel terrorists attack the U.S. Consulate. Despite the objections of CIA chief “Bob” (David Constible) – who is concerned about protocol – Rone assembles his team to storm the consulate and rescue all the Americans there, including Ambassador Stevens. Their efforts are not entirely successful (as history notes), as Stevens and another American die. The team manages to rescue everyone else and return to the CIA safe house, where they mount a last stand against the terrorists, who advance on the compound with everything they’ve got, including small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and mortars. Two more American contractors show up from Tripoli in the middle of the battle, including Glen “Dub” Doherty (Toby Stephens). As the skirmish rages on, 31 Americans hold onto the hope that the security team will be able to hold off the attack until help can arrive in the form of air support from the U.S. military (which never arrives).

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a very good film about a very bad incident. That’s right, I just gave praise to a Michael Bay movie. To me, Bay represents everything wrong with blockbuster movies, as he often overindulges with style over substance. Given a very good script based on equally formidable source material from Mitchell Zuckoff’s book (which was compiled with the assistance of the surviving security team members), Bay gets credit for not getting in the way of a compelling, albeit tragic story from our recent history. For once, Michael Bay’s patented flyover shots have a little more meaning than looking cool. His trademark yellow camera filter reflects the harsh Libyan landscape, while his penchant for being “explosion-y” depicts a real firefight with practical effects instead of two hours of mindless computer-generated graphics.

Then again, I’m not sure if 13 Hours is successful because of Bay, but perhaps he gets credit for checking his hubris at the door and allowing it to be a good movie. I’ve made no secret of my disdain for Bay’s body of work, making 13 Hours a pleasant surprise, at least.

As for the whole Benghazi controversy, 13 Hours may not answer many political questions about who’s responsible for the debacle, but it does make the case that our leaders failed on many fronts in preventing it and providing assistance to people they put in harm’s way. Ambassador Stevens is portrayed as an idealistic nation-builder; a scenario that’s proven to be an intractable foreign policy minefield for the past 15 years and two presidential administrations.

If there’s one gripe I have about 13 Hours, it’s the detailed length of the film (clocking in at a massive 2 hours and 24 minutes). They could have cut 20 minutes from the movie, giving it a little more pacing.

Even with its length, 13 Hours is a tense thriller that will keep most audiences glued to the screen until the end credits. It also gives reverence to those who lost their lives in the battle, including four Americans and dozens of Libyans. Making sense of the senseless event may never come to be, but 13 Hours succeeds in giving the world a glimpse of real heroes who chose to act, instead of standing idly by when their comrades’ lives were at stake.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Trailer