13 Hours - The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Parent Review
This movie seems to have bought into the notion that viewers needed to be educated about events by seeing the gory horrors. It is lacking in background information and historical perspective.
Is it fact, or is it fiction? It seems more movies than ever before give us a title card in the opening seconds declaring that what we are about to see is true. But whose “truth” is it? Going into this hard-hammering war zone of a movie, it would be wise to remember that what you are about to see has been formatted to fit the moviemakers’ point of view.
The attack on the U.S. diplomatic outpost and CIA annex in Benghazi, Libya hardly qualifies as “history” yet. It feels like only yesterday we watched the disturbing news showing a building engulfed in flames while U.S. personnel scurried about trying to manage the situation. In this movie, directed by Michael Bay—a man best known for transforming children’s toys into menacing robots, the point is firmly pounded in that the neither the CIA, nor anyone else from the mother country was ever in control.
Bay builds his argument in the opening minutes when we meet CIA private security contractor Jack Silva (John Krasinski) who has just been picked up at the airport by Global Response Staff (GRS) team leader Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale). They barely leave Benghazi’s airport before they find themselves at the business end of a swarm of guns held by jittery locals. Knowing they have no other military help coming to save their lives, Silva and Rone make up a story that motivates their would-be assassins to back off. Screenwriter Chuck Hogan, who based his script on a book written with the co-operation of the surviving members of the security team, uses this tense moment to pay kudos to the quick-thinking abilities of these ex-militarymen. It’s a theme that will be repeated through out the movie.
The pair eventually reaches a CIA outpost on the outskirts of the city, under the command of “Bob” (David Costabile). The location is supposedly clandestine, yet it is obvious, especially to the six GRS members, that a contingent of Americans porting about town in bulletproof BMW’s once owned by dictator Muammar Gaddafi, all of which return to a walled nest through tall steel doors, is sure to attract some attention from undesirables.
Meanwhile, a mile away, a U.S. diplomatic compound offers luxurious accommodations for visiting dignitaries, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens (Matt Letscher), who is coming to visit on the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. Early in the evening of September 11, 2012, a large contingent of Libyan militants attacks the enclosure, easily overcoming the locally hired security guards. They ransack the facility and light a large fire that traps Ambassador Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service Information Officer Sean Smith (Christopher Dingli) in the residence where they soon succumb to the smoke and flames.
With a high focus on the brutal conflict that erupts that fateful night, the film quickly turns into a blinding barrage of firepower and barely-visible actions taking place on a murky screen. Hearing the cries for help over their radios, the GRS members, who also include Kris “Tanto” Paronto (Pablo Schreiber), Mark “Oz” Geist (Max Martini), John “Tig” Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa) and Dave “Boon” Benton (David Denman), are desperate to offer assistance, but are ordered to stand down by Bob. Finally the team uses their initiative to intervene, however by that late time their efforts are in vain. All they can do is transport the injured back to their own base. And that is when they realize – correctly—that the not-so-secret CIA stronghold will be the next target. The battle that then ensues is even more explicit with countless people being shot and maimed by various weapons.
Violence is by far the greatest content concern of this film, which features portrayals of explicit injuries, including a near-dismembered arm seen gushing blood and a brief image of a man who appears to have been cut in half by an explosion. Added to this are at least 35 sexual expletives and dozens of other profanities.
Michael Bay (along with many other directors) seems to have bought into the notion that viewers need to be educated by seeing the gory horrors of the battlefield. Yet I can’t help but wonder if his desire to have us vicariously witness this conflict in intricate detail is indeed the most important aspect of this incident. The script seems devoid of much needed background information and historical perspective, which I think might more effectively increase audiences’ understanding of this tragedy.
Considering the ongoing discussion of this event within the context of the 2015-2016 USA Presidential Candidates election process, 13 Hours may not be enough time for audiences to truly appreciate the significance of The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.Directed by Michael Bay. Starring John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, James Badge Dale, Toby Stephens. Running time: 144 minutes. Theatrical release January 15, 2016. Updated June 7, 2016
Get details on profanity, sex and violence in 13 Hours - The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi here.
13 Hours - The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Parents Guide
Learn more about the September 11, 2012 attack on the US diplomatic compound in Benghazi, the former joint capital of Libya.