13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

John Krasinski in 13 Hours. (Screenshot: UIP SA/YouTube)
John Krasinski in 13 Hours. (Screenshot: UIP SA/YouTube)

What it's about:

Based on a true story, this film tells the story of an American Ambassador who is killed during an attack on a U.S. compound in Libya on September 11, 2012 by Islamist terrorists. This is an account of the six soldiers who fought fearlessly to defend the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi.

What we thought:

The Benghazi incident in 2012 has been a hotly disputed mess since it happened, implicating many American political figures and CIA operatives in their non-action to rescue U.S. citizens. In Michael Bay’s 13 Hours adaptation based on the book with the same name, we see Bay-esque action throughout, although with less CGI, as it follows what some to believe the true heroes of the attack – a privately contracted security team that defended CIA operatives from Libyan fighters. Unfortunately, we do not get to see the political drama that unfolded behind the scenes, and what led to the attack in the first place.

Set in the build up to and during the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attacks on an United States embassy, a group of six ex-soldiers now working in the private security sector fight against Jihadist fighters and CIA bureaucracy to protect other US citizens, with little to no help from the American government.

For such a politically complicated incident where many things went wrong very quickly all at once, 13 Hours lacks the depth and tenacity that a true telling of the story seriously needed. Instead, it comes off as a straightforward action movie with easily identifiable heroes and villains, a treatment that does not do justice to such a sensitive issue, which was still debated last year in regards to the Hillary Clinton email saga. 

For those unclear about the saga, during the Benghazi incident that left a U.S. ambassador dead, the Obama administration downplayed the attacks as a protest response to an anti-Muslim video instead of a coordinated Al Qaida terrorist attack, which many believe was the case. In 13 Hours, although the reason for the attack is left to the imagination of the audience, the writers definitely allude to the latter theory, that it was a well-planned attack on U.S nationals. Although the rest of the film attempts to leave politics out of its story, this was a deliberate jab at the U.S. government.

As for the technical aspects, there are enough explosions and gunfights to keep you distracted from the political questions, as well as a super buff John Krasinski (The Office). A very far cry from his usual environment, Krasinski appeared comfortable in an action film, although his talents in the emotions department helped cement the character with some depth. The rest of the tough crew has little to peak interest from the audience except for their guns, despite the various Skype calls to loved ones.

One credit I can give to the film is their depiction of Libyans, who were not brushed with one prejudicial stroke. They varied from the dedicated-to-their-cause attackers, scared police who ran away, normal Libyans who go on about their lives amongst the violence, and Libyans who try to help the Americans for selfish and unselfish reasons. That cannot be said for the American government, who was depicted as being glaringly absent from the rescue efforts.

No doubt there will be more films on the Benghazi attacks, with different opinions and angles, and I hope next time we will get a better political thriller then 13 Hours pretends to be. But if you are looking for a simplistic action film with a touch of heartfelt dialogue, then 13 Hours is not a terrible choice.

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