“What’s the situation?” asks CIA agent Dave Ubben (Demetrius Grosse). “Get a gun; meet me on the roof,” says one of six hired security operators, “and I’ll tell you all about it.” It’s the night of Sept. 11, 2012, in Benghazi, Libya. An American diplomatic outpost and covert CIA compound are under attack by warring Libyan militia. U.S. ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) and team are in danger. His people do not know the city well. The ex-military operators — former SEALs — hired to provide security, have been told by CIA chief — identified only as “Bob” (David Costabile) — “You are not first responders — you will wait!” But they say, “None of us has to go, but we are the only help they have.”
That’s the setup for this gritty action drama based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s book, “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi,” written with help from the covert security operators.
John Krasinski is Jack Silva, returning after visiting family in the US. We see events largely through his eyes. His ex-SEAL colleagues — “Rone” Woods, “Tanto” Paronto, “Boon” Benton, “Tig” Tiegen, and “Oz” Geist — are well played by James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa and Max Martini, their comradery expressed in tough-guy banter, inside jokes and puzzlement. “Does it seem like everyone around here knows what’s going on except us?” says one. “You can’t tell the good guys from the bad guys,” says another. As CIA chief Bob, David Costabile has authority problems with Silva and his crew: “What you’re not so good at is doing what you’re told,” he says. “You’re not CIA; you’re hired help.”
Others in the large cast include Matt Letscher as earnest Ambassador Chris Stevens. “America is here for you,” he says to a Libyan audience. Peyman Moaadi is interpreter Amahl. Alexia Barlier plays corporate rep Sona Jillani.
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is action drama and, as The Wall Street Journal’s critic points out, a film that “lays claim to a quasi-documentary status.” (Director Michael Bay incorporates documentary-style text in the screen’s left-hand corner.) Here, I’ll comment only on “13 Hours” as action drama — first, 40 minutes of exposition establishing location and characters, especially a contentious relationship between CIA and the ex-military security operators; the rest of the film depicting the harrowing 13-hour night-time, gritty (and grisly) attack and defense. Viewers will recognize director Bay’s blockbuster style.
Rated R for pervasive strong combat violence, bloody images and language, “13 Hours” runs 144 minutes.
As authority breaks down,
It’s a “13-Hour” night,
Michael Bay’s Benghazi film —
Heroic, gritty fight.