13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Film Review

Michael Bay’s latest action extravaganza portrays the deadly 2012 attack on an American diplomatic compound in Libya.

The vast and underserved heartland audience that made such a smash out of American Sniper a year ago finally has some fresh red meat to call its own in 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Michael Bay’s latest in-between-Transformers picture actually features just as much action as his giant toy extravaganzas, being an account of the waves of intense firefights that occurred at the American compound in Libya’s second city on September 11-12, 2012. The big selling point of Mitchell Zuckoff’s book about the incident, which cost the life of Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three others, was its revelation of the hitherto unknown role special ops played in holding marauding local radicals at bay until all American personnel could be evacuated.

But while this adaptation superficially goes out of its way to avoid being overtly political, its patriotic tenor is as unmistakable as its sentimentality. Even if an unmentioned Hillary Clinton has nothing specific to worry about in regard to the film’s content, its mere existence will stir up fresh talk about her behavior regarding the incident, and there’s no doubt that Donald Trump fans will eat this up more enthusiastically than anyone.

Although it was never presented as such in news accounts, the siege on the diplomatic enclave and the secret CIA facility a mile away resembles in its dramatization nothing so much as the battle of the Alamo, albeit with a better ending as far as the Americans were concerned. As with so many accounts of Western involvement in the Middle East and other regions — Black Hawk Down, for starters — this is the story of a fiasco, one made less so by the fierce and selfless commitment of a few good men whose old-fashioned kick-ass attitudes form the crux of the yarn’s appeal.

Anything remotely relating to the ongoing controversy over then-Secretary of State Clinton’s actions, emails and what she knew when remains implicit; when it’s stated that both American diplomatic outposts in anarchic, post-Muammar Gaddafi Libya, including the relevant one in Benghazi, were among the 12 such sites on the worldwide “critical” list, meaning they were inadequately secured and vulnerable to attack, one is nonetheless left to ponder where the buck stops on this sort of thing.

In any event, the government’s answer is to supply a band-aid in the form of several “private security officers,” the first among equals being former Navy SEAL Jack Silva (John Krasinski), who leaves his family behind one more time to take on a precarious assignment. His impersonation of Davy Crockett is flanked by five other guys with nicknames like Tig and Boon and Tanto and Oz and who are played by buff 30-ish actors whose bushy beards make it next to impossible to tell them apart. But, this being a Michael Bay movie, we can rest assured that they’re all tough, potty-mouthed and at their best when sporting night-vision goggles and handling multiple forms of heavy artillery.

 

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