The Hippo


Jan 20, 2020








13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (R)
Film Reviews by Amy Diaz

By Amy Diaz

A small group of Americans working in Libya in 2012 must hold out against a terrorist attack in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, a movie directed by Michael Bay with all those Michael Bay touches.
Crazy drum score? Check! American flags used to signal stuff? Check! Explosions and butt-kicking? Yes and yes!
In this case, the butt-kicking is being done by a group of former soldiers who work as security contractors at a secret CIA annex in Benghazi. Though, as a few point out, it’s a giant complex full of Americans so its existence is probably not a huge secret to the locals. The men — Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale), Kris “Tanto” Paronto (Pablo Schreiber), Dave “Boon” Benton (David Denman), John “Tig” Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa) and Mark “Oz” Geist (Max Martini) — are joined by Jack Silva (John Krasinski). We get the general sense that these bearded, muscle-bound dudes have found only moderate financial success in their post-military careers and have taken this deeply unfun assignment to support their families. Benghazi in 2012 is shown as a land of warring militias — some nominally friendly to the U.S. — and near-constant threat of violence. In addition to the unfriendly local militia types and the more global-terrorism-minded folks, the other main villain the men face is Bob (David Costabile), the CIA station chief. Pretty much every movie like this has a man like Bob — a vice principal type who is all about the rules despite the situation on the ground and whose allegiance to bureaucracy outweighs “doing what’s right” or “human lives” or whatever the shouting match is eventually over. 
In this case, when the men look out their windows and see that the nearby diplomatic compound where Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) is staying is under attack, Rone and the gang want to head over. Because that compound — and the CIA compound — is not officially an embassy, it does not have a full complement of military security. It, like the CIA annex, is guarded by friendly militia and a few ex-military U.S. contractors. Naturally, Bob drags his feet and yammers about protocol like all the Bobs that have come before so that, by the time the annex team gets over to the diplomatic compound, terrorists have tried to chase Stevens out of his safe room by setting the main building on fire and the ambassador is now missing. The security team takes the remaining survivors back to the annex and gets ready to fight the terrorist onslaught there. 
Meanwhile, a few hundred miles away in Tripoli, a friend of the annex team, Glen “Bub” Doherty (Toby Stevens) is trying to get his own rescue team together.   
There may have been part of me that thought this was going to be a movie about, like, Hillary Clinton’s email inbox or something. But this movie is a pretty straightforward rescue-mission/standoff tale, with a small number of brave soldiers — who are given just enough backstory so we can feel feelings about their plight — fighting off a larger, determined force. Other than a bit of “Libya is pretty screwed up/this job sucks” type comments, the movie is minimally political. In their most philosophical moments, the men aren’t terribly psyched that this is how they might die, working in Libya as part of something they don’t understand, but “this” for them is mostly a lousy job that pays really well. As long as your viewpoint isn’t “and everything worked out perfectly” this movie probably supports just about any stance on U.S. involvement in Libya.  
As such, as dumb careless action, 13 Hours basically works. It isn’t particularly thoughtful but it isn’t horribly racist or xenophobic, which is where movies like this frequently go. It pays respect to its real-life main characters — the security team and Ambassador Stevens — and keeps the focus so tight that it barely gives us anything that isn’t about the security team and the attack of that night. How accurate is it? Beats me, but it’s a Michael Bay movie about heroics in Benghazi — it feels like it wants to be bare bones and just the facts but I suspect a certain amount of Bay-ness creeps in as well. I don’t know that it sheds any light on the political scandal that Benghazi became but, gah, who wants that in a movie? Who wants that in a Michael Bay movie? 
John Krasinski as the character we know most about and who is the most easily recognizable — the beards make many of the other security force guys a bit interchangable — is not bad. I don’t know that he’s the next Bradley Cooper, or even the next Chris Pratt, but this movie does prove that he can be more than just “Jim from The Office” and Jim variants.
I don’t know that I liked 13 Hours but I didn’t have a terrible time at 13 Hours. It is slightly-better-than-middling action fare put together with just enough skill that even though we basically know the outcome the movie still holds our attention. C+
Rated R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images and language. Directed by Michael Bay  with a screenplay by Chuck Hogan (from a book by Mitchell Zuckoff), 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is two hours and 24 minutes long and distributed by Paramount Pictures. 

®2020 Hippo Press. site by wedu