Writers: Chuck Hogan (screenplay), Michael Zuckoff (Book)
John Krasinski as Jack Silva
James Badge Dale as Tyrone “Rone” Woods
Pablo Schreiber as Kris “Tanto” Paronto
David Denman as Dave “Boon” Benton
Diminic Fumusa as John “Tig” Tiegen
Max Martini as Mark “Oz” Geist
Toby Stephens as Glen “Bub” Doherty
Matt Letscher as Ambassador Chris Stevens
Alexia Barlier as Sina Jillani
It will not be surprising to discover that progressives hate this movie. In fact, they hated it before it was released. Writing a review based only on a trailer, Max Fisher of Vox, had this to say on 07-29-15:
Maybe it’s unfair to prejudge 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi based just on this trailer. But I am not optimistic about this movie: not about its fealty to reality and, more to the point, not about its likely effect on the political debate it seems designed to land squarely in the middle of.
That real-life incident on which the movie is based, typically shorthanded as “Benghazi,” is deadly serious: Four Americans died in violence that was part of Libya’s larger, still-growing chaos. The attack remains a live political controversy in the US, one that is bound to resurface during the presidential contest — which just so happens to coincide with the film’s January 2016 release.
Bay’s movie seems destined to make the American public’s confusion over what happened in Benghazi and what it means much worse. It may well be the decisive nail in the coffin of the American public’s effort to comprehend the Benghazi attack and its lessons.
Unfortunately for Fischer and other progressives, the danger–for them–in this movie is not that it will get the facts of Benghazi wrong. On the contrary, they fear that it will get them right, and so Fischer launched what he hoped would be a pre-emptive strike:
Based on the trailer, it appears that Bay’s movie will attempt to squeeze and contort the painful events of Benghazi into a neat and emotionally satisfying narrative: Brave American military heroes must overcome cowardly suits and shoot a bunch of bad guys so that they may save the day. That should sound familiar; it’s one of Hollywood’s half-dozen or so standard cookie-cutter action movie plot lines.
The plot sketched out in the trailer is a reassuring and simple checklist of action movie tropes, like a security blanket for the audience, protecting them from the scary complexities of the real world. Tough, bearded American men must survive in a hostile land, which fortunately is easy because they are tough and bearded and willing to ‘die for your country.’
Then a bad thing happens — brown people! explosions! — and the heroes fly into action. Shooting bad guys is no problem for these heroes, so surely victory is imminent.
But wait: A bureaucrat, played by an actor known for portraying weak, feckless men on various TV shows, tells the brave bearded men that they’re not allowed to go bravely shoot the bad guys. The audience cannot help but hate the cowardly bureaucrat, and be happy when the bearded man shouts him down. The brave bearded heroes, the trailer suggests, will Do the Right Thing, even if that means defying orders. But will the heroes be heroic in time? Or will the bad orders from the cowardly bureaucrat ruin everything?
“Brown people?” Any mention of race, even any implication about it, is entirely absent from the movie. And what is Fischer’s obsession with “bearded men?” And what, pray tell, are these “scary complexities of the real world” from which an unsophisticated, non-elite audience wishes to be protected? Surely no feckless bureaucrats screw things up in real life in our federal government? Fischer’s commentary on a movie he has not yet seen could have been composed by a progressive jargon assembling computer program:
Bay’s portrayal thus indulges, and risks perpetuating, the mistaken belief that one of the chief causes of the Benghazi deaths was a misguided order to “stand down.” This is particularly dangerous given that for years, critics of Hillary Clinton have falsely contended that while secretary of state she gave a “’stand down’ order not to defend against the attack. Much as Zero Dark Thirty misled audiences into believing that torture helped us catch bin Laden, Michael Bay may mislead audiences into thinking that Clinton or one of her subordinates was responsible for Benghazi.
The ”mistaken belief” about which Fischer worries appears to be anything but. The security men whose story is told in 13 hours have made clear that their boss, the CIA station chief, indeed forced them to stand down for a significant time, time that probably caused the deaths of our people at the diplomatic compound. The movie does not say precisely where that order originated, but suggests it came from higher authority. But the Obama Administration would never micromanage such things from thousands of miles away, would it? Oh, and enhanced interrogation techniques–not torture–and independent intelligence confirmation of information gained from those techniques did lead to our raid on bin Laden, and provided a great deal of other very vital intelligence.
In fact, Hillary Clinton is never mentioned in the movie, but she was the Secretary of State, she ignored hundreds of requests for upgraded security, it was her responsibility, so yes, audiences might indeed think her or her subordinates responsible.
Fischer–and other progressives–suggests the release date of the movie was timed specifically to harm Hillary. Nonsense. The election won’t take place for nearly 10 months. An example of media intended to influence an election was Dan Rather’s 60 Minutes fabricated hit piece on George W. Bush, released in October before that election. 13 Hours is a faithful depiction of actual events.
The film’s most damaging decision, though, will likely turn out to also be its most understandable: an almost certain failure to engage with the real problems that led to the real deaths at Benghazi. Was the US-led intervention a mistake? Why was there not more planning for stabilizing Libya after the intervention, or disarming the militias that quickly brought chaos to cities such as Benghazi? Why did the State Department fail to provide the Benghazi mission with sufficient security?
Worthy questions all, but this movie is not a documentary. It was not written to answer all such questions. It is a very fast paced, brilliantly filmed and engaging action movie about the 13 hours leading up to and following the September 11, 2012 attack on our diplomatic mission and CIA annex in Benghazi. A congressional committee is currently trying to definitively answer those questions, and the Obama Administration is stonewalling, slow rolling, and using its congressional supporters to denigrate and lie about the committee’s progress and conclusions. Fischer pretends to care about answers, yet he would presumably disparage those answers if they didn’t adhere to the correct progressive narrative.
These are all questions, by the way, that implicate Hillary Clinton. A lot of liberal people will want to dislike this movie because it will be bad for Hillary Clinton, and it will likely hurt her presidential campaign by misleading people into believing things about Benghazi that are untrue or, at best, incomplete. But there are real reasons that what happened in Benghazi should cause Clinton political problems. It just does not appear that those reasons are given much space, if any, in this movie.
And what are those real reasons? By all means, take the link and read Fischer’s article. He doesn’t bother with such trivia. But he’s right, it should, and hopefully will, hurt Clinton’s chances for the presidency, because when that 3 AM call came, she was sound asleep and couldn’t be bothered.
Readers will, I’m sure, be able to easily find a great many progressives panning the film based on what they perceive its message to be. In that, anything that does not portray Hillary Clinton as a brilliant diplomat and strategic thinker will cause offense. As I’ve already mentioned, Clinton has no actual part, not a mention, in the movie. As a solid, entertaining action movie however, it excels.
Does the movie portray the events with absolute accuracy? One must presume it does not, that it cannot. But does it portray the timing, sequence of events, the salient facts of the battles, and the heroics of the American defenders? That it does. That’s also why its mere existence so angers and rattles Hillaryites in particular and progressives in general.
There is really no character development in the movie. John Krasinski is the protagonist, and a substantial portion of what little character development is present is focused on him, but he is symbolic of the lives and sacrifices of them all. And they are indeed what Fischer so mocks and fears: hard, capable, dedicated men, American warriors, willing to travel to the most dangerous foreign hell-holes to protect the men and women who are gathering the intelligence that keeps us all safe and allows people like Fischer to denigrate far better men than he,
Krasinski’s Jack Silva is a former SEAL with two little daughters who hasn’t been able to make peace with civilian life. The cry of the warrior sings seductively to him. It’s what he is, but by the end of the movie, he has made the decision to return home for good, and the audience is glad.
There is no soul-searching dialogue, no tear-jerking stories of difficulties overcome, no dramatic resolutions. The focus is on the action and the unceasing heroics of the handful of men that saved as many American lives as they could that long night.
Bay’s direction allows the audience to see the frustrations of the security men. They had no idea who was friend or foe and had to wait to be fired upon before defending themselves–a dangerous proposition in a chaotic terror war zone. The movie depicts various military assets that could have been on scene in time to be helpful, but instead, were never allowed to fly to the rescue. We now know this too to be true. The Americans in Benghazi were abandoned by the Obama Administration, left to die.
Yet the movie wastes no real time on this. There is little dialogue of any kind; the focus is unremittingly on the action. They knew help wasn’t coming. They knew they were on their own. They knew they would live or die on their efforts and determination alone, and they did what was necessary, at a very high price, to survive. They were proud be to Americans and were determined that no American be left behind. They were indeed heroes. No wonder progressives hate 13 Hours.
At the end of the movie, we see the photos of the real heroes of Benghazi, though the face of one is obscured, and learn that all retired from the CIA and have returned to quiet civilian lives. There is, in that, at least the hope that when America needs them, there will always be men like these, willing to do that about which nuanced, complex people like Fischer sneer.
All of the facets of professional moviemaking are present. The lights, sound, costumes, props, everything is up to contemporary standards. There is never a dull moment, and even though audiences know the story and outcome, that does not diminish the excitement, and horror, of the movie.
Some may nit pick this or that about the weapons, support equipment and tactics employed, but they were generally correct, and properly employed. The capabilities they demonstrated were realistic.
Bob, the stereotypical, snobbishly arrogant station chief, early on, sneers at Sliva that his job is to protect the nuanced, elite Harvard and Yale graduates that man his outpost. Silva and his comrades do that, and even Bob seems, at the end, to honor them. That’s probably the primary thing the movie got wrong. People like Bob really do exist and are incapable of honoring true heroism and patriotism.
There is no navel-gazing complexity. A handful of Americans, protected by far too few warriors were stuck in a terrorist controlled hellhole and abandoned to fend for themselves. That’s the backdrop, the plot, and the substance of what happened in Behghazi, and of the movie. Merely surviving that kind of situation is more than sufficiently complex.
13 Hours does not answer the many unanswered questions about Behghazi, but it suggests what honest Americans suspect happened. It cannot be held accountable for that supposed failing, for failing to be all things to all people, and for failing to fully support progressive anti-military, anti-American narratives. There have been movies true to that ethic. They’ve bombed. Badly. It is an intense and entertaining movie that will make honorable Americans glad to be Americans, and angry that we have allowed ourselves to be ruled by such feckless poseurs. It’s a movie that shows that character is truly defined and revealed when things are worst. Honorable men, when it mattered most, did do what was right, and what was necessary. That’s why it’s deadly to Hillary. That’s why it’s definitely worth the price of admission and repeated visits on DVD.