13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi recounts how a team of six CIA contractors attempted to rescue the American ambassador and his few American and Libyan defenders when terrorists attacked him in Benghazi in 2012. With terrorists overrunning the diplomatic compound and engaging them in firefights in the streets, the contractors realize they have to go defend their own CIA compound, which gets pounded by wave after wave of attacks.
Director Michael Bay has achieved a “you are there” feel, giving the uncanny impression of actually being there in Benghazi. One can imagine the smells and the oppressive heat in this chaotic north African city. The dangers of this failed state are all around these contractors, with different factions setting up roadblocks in ramshackle alleys and shooting people in seemingly random fashion. As they pass armed men in the street, it is not at all clear who are the bad guys and who are people just wanting to defend themselves.
Bay has achieved a mostly unbloody movie (until the end), taking advantage of the action occurring at night and showing the firefights from the view of the night vision devices the Americans use. So although we definitely see terrorists (or Tangos, as they are called) getting shot in the head or in the chest, the depictions are non-gory.
Standout moments are:
-A few kids setting off a bottle rocket near the CIA compound, then later on the terrorists heading for that exact point as they gather to attack.
-CIA diplomats and the station chief acting like fussy office workers while the contractors try to save their lives.
-The most terrifying car chase I’ve ever seen. Remember to yell “Go left” at a certain moment.
-In a surreal scene, a terrorist drives right up to the wall of the CIA compound between firefights. He gets out and prepares to throw a homemade bomb. One of the contractors calmly says, “Don’t do that.”
-More than once, Libyans armed with military rifles pass the Americans on the street. The Americans say, “Who are you?” The Libyans do not answer and keep walking.
I’ve never watched The Office much, but fans of John Krasinski will see he’s made the transition from TV comedy to action movie. And in a surprise, David Giuntoli, the star of GRIMM, shows up as the main bodyguard of the ambassador with important scenes.
13 Hours is based on the book of the same name, which in turn was based on detailed interviews with the survivors. Some people (including some who have not seen the movie) accuse it of being political, but President Obama and Hillary Clinton are never mentioned. This is an incredible true story that should be widely seen.