Review – 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

 With John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, James Badge, David Denman, Dominic Fumusa. Written by Chuck Hogan. Directed by Michael Bay. Rated R for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language. 144 minutes.

Don’t you just hate it when a movie gets caught up in politics? When “The Right Stuff” came out–about the Mercury astronauts–there was more talk about whether it would impact the potential presidential campaign for John Glenn than on the quality of the film. With “American Sniper,” a superb film about the price our soldiers pay, it became a marker in the debate over the war in Iraq.

Now we have 13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI. Objectively it is a solid film about a group of soldiers–actually former soldiers performing as contractors–trying to hold things together at a remote Libyan outpost under attack. A bit overlong, it is still a compelling film about men in combat in a region where you can’t tell friends from enemies. That isn’t how it’s going to be perceived.

If you think FOX News is a legitimate source of information, you may as well stop reading right now, because this review will be focusing on fact, not fantasy. There is no “Benghazi scandal.” Hillary Clinton did not “abandon” Americans under attack nor did she try to “cover up” anything. Several Republican Congressional committees attempted to pin everything on her and came up utterly empty. That’s reality.

The film tries to stick to the facts. There’s a passing reference to protests against an anti-Mohammad film that were taking place elsewhere in the Muslim world on Sept. 11, 2012, but it’s clear that had nothing to do with the attacks in Benghazi. We see that the official outpost and the “secret” CIA location were undermanned for security and that help was distant and slow to come.

Our focus are the six contractors who are there to support security efforts. The CIA station chief both needs and resents their presence, but when they come under attack he’s told, “You’re in our world now.” If at first it feels like a video game–this is a Michael Bay film after all – the attack quickly turns real. There’s the confusion over the lack of identification. The chief is constantly asked if they’re expecting any “friendlies” when, for example, police cars pull up at the gate. The men have to try to anticipate the next move of the unknown enemy while at the same time deal with the ebb and flow of the attack. One notes that the downtime is the worst of it, as the adrenaline drains and they start to crash.

“13 Hours” is not a political film, but will be treated as such by those with an agenda, who will complain there’s no scene with then-Secretary of State Clinton cackling with glee at the deaths of Americans. Outside the bubble of right-wing crazies, nothing like that ever happened. As Steven Colbert famously noted, reality has a well-known liberal bias. Recounting what actually happened during that attack is an opportunity to see America’s defenders pull together under nightmarish conditions. It’s what we’re made of. It’s too bad the movie is unlikely to be perceived that way.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.


8 thoughts on “Review – 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

  1. You’re obviously a liberal propagandist because the FACTS show yes Clinton did try to cover up the facts.
    Also Chris Kyle was a lying murderer and was paid by someone in Government to fabricate claims against Jesse Ventura, an honest fighter for truth.

    You’re fighting on the side of evil Kimmel. Congrats.

    1. You’re obviously someone taken in by the nonsense on FOX Noise. The FACT is that every single Congressional investigation — we’re up to three or four now — has come up empty. There is no Benghazi scandal, unless we’re talking about the scandal of ignorant fools who will swallow any lie fed to them by Limbaugh, Hannity, O’Reilly, Beck, et. al.

  2. Daniel, stick to being a movie critic and stay out of trying to influence readers with your jaded politics. Your ignorance is evident when you mention that the Internet video had nothing to do with the attack- clearly contradicting the efforts by Clinton and as she spoke in front of those American corpses.
    You critics are all the same, and should probably get out and see some of the real America.

    1. Another FOX Noise viewer weighs in. All those investigations coming up empty. Is the right-wing Republican Congress part of the imaginary “cover-up?” You’re the one who needs to get out into the real world.

    1. Translation: “In the third paragraph you offered incontrovertible facts and for people on the far right, that makes it ‘political.'”

      Out here in the real world there IS no “Benghazi scandal.” There wasn’t any “cover-up.” And EVERY single Congressional investigation has been forced to come to the same conclusion.

  3. Since you say “this review will be focusing on fact, not fantasy” here are some facts for you:
    Fact: Ambassador Stevens repeatedly asked for more security for his time in Benghazi but was denied. State department is in charge of that. Clinton was in charge of State.
    Fact: The battle raged for seven hours, yet no ready action teams, planes or armed drones were sent to the scene. President Obama said he ordered everything to be done to help them. Really?
    Fact: When the caskets were returned to Dover, Clinton, Obama and Peneta all told the family members they would get the man responsible for making the video that caused the situation. Unless you believe all four families are lying.
    Read up. Benghazi is a scandal in three parts – before, during and after. The fact these amazing ex-special operators saved as many lives as they did does make for a compelling movie. I don’t have to watch Fox News to familiarize myself with the facts.
    Oh, and since when is an investigation over just because the primary witness testified? Fact: more is coming.

    1. The fact is that there have been SEVERAL Congressional invesigations, not just one. All have come up empty.

      Oh, and about there not being enough security? The State Department item for security was cut in the budget passed by the REPUBLICAN Congress.

      As for the obsession over the video, there were some protests over the video and there was some initial conflicting reports. The notion that this was proof of a “cover-up” is something that the Glenn Beck crowd may eat up, but has been dismissed by those of us in the fact-based rational world.

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