13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (R) ★★½

"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" stars John Krasinski, David Denman, Pablo Schreiber and Dominic Fumusa. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” stars John Krasinski, David Denman, Pablo Schreiber and Dominic Fumusa. Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures.

Another War Movie That May Not Stack Up to its Predecessors

The 2012 attack on Benghazi still carries significant political weight these days and rightfully so. The event, that took place on the evening of September 11, 2012, when Islamic militants attacked the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, killing a U.S. Ambassador and a U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer, was indeed a tragedy and the events surrounding it have been misconstrued by both political parties. It is still debated by talking heads, but probably few really know the full story of the events that caused the death of U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and several other Americans. Director Michael Bay’s latest film, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi explores the untold story of what happened that day and the bravery of the Americans who were against all odds and saved many lives.

The film begins by setting the scene of Benghazi at the time of the attack. At the time, the U.S. had more than 200 diplomatic posts across the world, including two in Libya, a region that was engulfed in a chaotic and violent civil war following the overthrow of its dictator, Muammar Gaddafi. While every other nation had closed its Libyan embassies and withdrawn personnel from Benghazi, the U.S. still maintained a makeshift embassy and a secret CIA outpost that was actively gathering intelligence on the insurgency. Both the ambassador’s residence and the CIA outpost were protected by a team of former special ops forces turned private contractors.

Bay is no stranger to action movies, and 13 Hours does a decent job of showing the dangerous situations that the Americans faced in during the Libyan civil war and portraying the heroism of the security force that protected and saved American lives. The film could have better explained who some of the groups of people were in relation to each other and why certain actions could not be taken as events escalated. With a run time of roughly two and a half hours, one would think there would be enough screen time to clarify the situation and the interrelations of everybody, especially since American audiences are very interested in what exactly happened and how this could have been avoided.

Jack Silva, an ex-Navy SEAL, played by John Krasinski (Aloha, 2015) best known for playing Jim in The Office instead of an action hero, has just arrived to the city to help bolster the security detail. He is picked up at the airport by Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale, The Walk, 2015), an old friend from previous missions. On their way home, they are stopped by armed civilians carrying machine guns, but Rone is able to talk his way out of the standoff after threatening a drone attack even though Rone tells Silva that in reality, they are all alone out there. When the two finally reach the CIA outpost, the rest of the security team is introduced, including Kris “Tonto” Paronto (Pablo Schreiber, The Dramatics, 2015) and David “Boom” Benton played by fellow Office alum, David Denham, The Gift, 2015. We are also introduced to the CIA’s section chief and his agents who are actively gathering intelligence on the flow of the seized weapons and to prevent the stockpiling of these weapons in the hands of enemies. Along with protecting these operatives as they go out in the field, the security detail finds out that the ambassador is returning to the city the next day, and they will need to ensure his safety as well.

When Ambassador Stevens arrives, he gives a quick speech pledging U.S. support to Libya’s fight for democracy. He and the team are concerned by the unrest in the city and the fact that the locals knew the location of his speech – information which was not publicly available.  The team arrives at the Ambassador’s mansion headquarters, and the group grows more alarmed at the increasing exposure of the location as they see locals taking photos on this makeshift embassy. The security detail returns to the CIA outpost a few miles away, but their concerns are soon justified when a group of militants begins assembling outside the Ambassador’s mansion and charges the under-protected gate in what now seems like a coordinated terrorist attack.  Despite orders to avoid engaging locals that would reveal that Americans are in Libya, the security detail knows they are the only hope of saving American lives and that their “not-so-secret” base is the next target. The remainder of the movie follows the bravery of the American security team against a much larger force as they protect their colleagues in the state department and CIA.

The actors do a fine job with the action sequences but when the guns are not drawn, the movie bogs down quite a bit. Although Krasinski bulked up for the role, he still has some work to do to shake off his “Jim” character, especially since James Badge Dale and Pablo Schreiber, who play his comrades, seem much more natural in this type of role. The film was a decent portrayal of the Benghazi attack, but does not live up to more recent war dramas like Lone Survivor (2013), Zero Dark Thirty (2012), and American Sniper (2014).

Bottom Line: 13 Hours delivers in the action sequence department, but drags at times and does not stack up to the caliber of recent war movies. However, the film is worth renting for anyone who is greatly interested in understanding more about this time in American history.

Credits: Directed by Michael Bay and Written by Chuck Hogan

Cast: James Badge Dale (Tyrone “Rone” Woods), John Krasinski (Jack Silva), Max Martin (Mark “Oz” Geist), Dominic Fumusa (John “Tig” Tiegen), Pablo Schreiber (Kris “Tanto” Paronto), David Denman (Dave “Boom” Benton), David Costabile (“The Chief”), Matt Letscher (Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens), Toby Stephens (Glen “Bub” Doherty) 

Studio: Paramount Pictures

Running Time: 144 minutes

Jessica Aymond © January 14, 2016