‘13 hours’ movie review: Michael Bay gets it right in thriller
Special to Lake Tahoe Action
13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI
* * *1/2 (A-)
Directed By Michael Bay
Starring John Krasinski, Max Martini, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, Gale Boetticher, Matt Letscher
Paramount, Rated R, Action, 144 minutes
Directed by Michael Bay, this gritty, realistic movie is a far cry from “Transformers” and the director’s other fantasy blockbusters. Based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s nonfiction book “13 hours,” this screenplay watches events unfold through the eyes of a half dozen “shadow warriors,” or contract “for hire” soldiers, who in 2011, protected our only remaining outpost in Libya.
After the toppling of Moammar Gadhafi’s regime, foreign consulates quickly fled. A covert CIA annex was established in Benghazi for the purpose of tracking and reporting on the increasingly unstable situation. The annex, populated by a dozen or so American analysts and support staff, relied on six embedded contract soldiers to provide its security.
The film focuses on Jack Silva (John Krasinski), a former Navy SEAL persuaded to leave his young family behind for a 6-month tour at the CIA’s Libyan annex. An experienced contract soldier, Jack is recruited by good friend Mark ‘Oz’ Geista (Max Martini), a member of the station’s security detail.
Through a combination of skill, quick thinking and nerves of steel, the security team keeps the annex safe from dangerous Libyan factions until U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) arrives to establish an unofficial U.S. diplomatic presence.
Tasked to escort the Ambassador to his appointments on an as-needed basis, several security team members assess Stevens’s Benghazi rental home. The Ambassador is pleased by his luxurious, 9-acre compound, but the security team advises him it’s a difficult location to fortify.
Stevens is only mildly concerned, having placed his faith in a few paramilitary types who stay with him on the grounds. The compound gates are guarded by locals paid $28 per day.
Soon enough, an assault is mounted on the Ambassador’s compound — a heartbreaking event to watch because CIA Station Chief, Bob (David Costabile), refuses to release his “soldiers for hire” in time to effect a rescue. This attack on the Ambassador begins the 13 hours promised in the film’s title when the emboldened anarchists next move their sights to the CIA annex.
Who lives and who dies, depends upon these six shadow warriors, men bravely confronting 100 or more rebels whose armaments include RPMs and ground-to-air missiles.
The otherwise relentless combat is broken up by brief glimpses of CIA staff attempting to turn off annex lights or to call contacts pleading for tactical support. Several times the attackers break away to regroup, allowing the contract soldiers an opportunity to consider what draws them to such danger.
U.S. officials talk about the importance of providing air and tactical support for our uniformed fighting men and women stationed overseas, but we hear nothing about the CIA analysts, or the contract or “for hire” soldiers quietly placing their lives on the line.
It’s clear that these six men could be relied upon when our government abandoned those it relied upon for information. Some critics have bashed Bay for failing to take sides.
For example: the film doesn’t pursue the decision-making process (or lack of it) taking place back in Washington, D.C. I think Bay got it right. He shows us a gripping, terrifying scenario, then leaves it to us to decide whether there ought to be consequences at the polls.