Free Press Journal

Movie Review: 13 Hours, The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – Harrowing and Patriotic


Cast: James Badge, John Krasinski, Max Martini, Toby Stephens, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, David Costabile, Dominic Fumusa

Director: Michael Bay

The devil loves anarchy. lawlessness, chaos and confusion. And violence and death. Customarily reviled for nonstop pyrotechnics, Michael (Pearl Harbor,Transformers) scores with this compelling recreation of the terror attacks on the U.S. Consulate and CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya, on Sept. 11, 2012, the anniverary of 9/11. Specifically, the film is based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s book 13 Hours:

The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi. Like AMERICAN SNIPER and BLACK HAWK DOWN, Bay’s film rightly celebrates the bravery, valour and sacrifice of American military fighting against impossible odds.Post Gaddafi, the Libyans come off badly. It’s difficult to tell the good guys from the bad ones even with night vision goggles and infra-red lasers.When the US diplomatic compound is attacked, I couldn’t help thinking of the Iranians who did the same in Tehran in  1979.

Something else also comes through: the Benghazi CIA chief’s bureaucratic wrangling over how to deal with the crisis and Ambassador Christopher Stevens bad decision to stay on at the Annex. Current Democratic Presidential hopeful and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, later took responsibility for the U.S. government’s response to the terror attacks,which ravaged the two compounds and claimed four lives (only four but even one would have been too many).

The casualties included U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens, Navy SEALs Tyrone Woods and Glen Doherty, and State expert Sean Smith. Zuckoff’s book was the basis for Chuck Hogan’s screenplay which focuses on the perspectives of the six men who went in to save the embattled Americans in Benghazi. The six belonged to a group named GRS comprised of former Marines, Army Rangers and Navy Seals who were despatched to prepare the US Embassy outpost for the visit of Ambassador Stevens. The team’s feedback to the CIA chief Bob (David Costabile) is that the compound is poorly secured. Bob insists there is no threat. He is proved wrong.

On Sept. 11, 2012, the consulate is stormed by the Ansar al-Sharia after local security abandon their posts leaving the gates open. The
CIA chief refuses to allow the GRS to go rescue the ambassador (Matt Letscher). The police are not reachable. Calls to the Pentagon and the State Dept. requesting air support are unanswered. Not long after ex Navy seal Jack Da Silva (John Krasinski) and Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale), tell Bob they’re going ahead, anyway.

True to form (and given the subject matter) Bay incorporates plenty of frenetic action,some gory scenes and great special effects, but the stand outs are the emotional moments from the lives of the six who long for their wives and children. I found it interesting that one soldier who says he feels God’s protection survives, and the one who repeats a New Age assertion that good, evil and the gods are inside of us, doesn’t make it. The martial soundtrack, Dion Beebe’s camerawork of a harrowing, hellish narrative makes this a thrilling watch.