13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
13 Hours is based on a real incident in 2012, when an unofficial and under-protected US diplomatic outpost in the Libyan city of Benghazi came under siege by Islamist militants intent on murdering the ambassador within. Stationed at an even less official CIA annex nearby, a six-man team of ex-special forces security contractors led by Tyrone “Rone” Woods (here played by James Badge Dale) and Jack Da Silva (John Krasinski) were charged with defending American assets while bureaucratic red tape delays official military retaliation.
At this stage in his career, Bay’s talent for depicting huge explosions and gunfights is beyond doubt. His specific approach here is marked by a tightening of focus onto the combatants on a personal level, which brings a compelling level of realism and gruesomely forensic levels of gore to the action. The realism sadly fails to carry over into the characters themselves, who are – for the most part – drawn with broad strokes of war movie cliché and given to wordy, over-emotive posturing (no such luxury for the unending waves of enemies, whose motivations go unexplored). In spite of a clunky script, Krasinski’s performance as an action lead is notably assured, and should facilitate a break away from his role as lovelorn Jim in The Office.
Much has been made of a supposed Republican agenda behind 13 Hours and its knowingly partisan marketing strategies. Donald Trump is said to have delighted in a special pre-release screening, and one Fox News commentator is quoted as saying that anyone voting for then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton after having seen the film is “a criminal.” Hyperbole aside, the reality is that this is a film with a confusingly asymmetric political stance. Though the mismanaged response to the siege is laid scornfully bare, the overriding sense at the film’s casualty-counting conclusion is of the futility of the broad interventionist approach to the troubled Middle East, which was ushered in by GW Bush and has been championed ever since by the conservative right.
Herein lays the fundamental problem with an ultimately self-sabotaging narrative. Given that even its muscle-bound protagonists lack clarity on the precise reason for their fight, the ultra-violent exultant glory with which it’s portrayed inevitably leaves a bitter taste in the mouth.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is released nationwide on 29th January 2016.
Watch the trailer for 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi here: