Movie Review – Archive578934643832 01/20/2016 13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Archive578934643832 Movie Review

By: David Allen : #658423 – X709 01/20/2016

13 Hours: Secret Soldiers of Benghazi


13 Hours: A Secret Mission Turns into a Desperate Fight to Survive

This violent and bloody movie is a depiction of an attack on two U.S. compounds within Benghazi, Libya on September 11, 2012. Drawn from a real-life event, it is directed by Michael Bay (Transformers) and based on a book written by Mitchell Zuckoff.

The movie opens illustrating the daily activities, lives and the families of the selected security team to give the viewer a vision into what these men are stripped away from in order to protect the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi. The threat that this may be a very dangerous mission and the desperate longing of the families to believe that their loved one will return home safely looms ominously as the men prepare to leave. 

The calm and solitude of their home on American soil soon dissipates as they disembark from their flight at the Libyan airport and are reminded that they are in a land of conflict as they view bullet riddled walls and a destroyed tank abandoned on the side of the road. 

The group, led by two former Navy SEALS and friends, Jack Silva (John Krasinski) and Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods (James Bradge Dale),  arrive at the CIA “Annex” where they are introduced to the rest of the team which is headed by the Chief, Bob (David Costabile) who is staunch and unwavering in his guidance.  Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letcher) and Information Management Officer Sean Smith (Christopher Dingli) have remained at the compound a mile away, with limited protection amidst the unrest.

The next day in what seems like a routine surveillance of the city, filled with insurgents and Libyan militia members, the covert security team are deployed to discreetly ascertain the level of danger.  The movie starts quietly and non-threatening but as you move further into the depths of habitation, the veil is lowered on an atmosphere of what one could assimilate to a gathering of wolves stalking and calculating their charge, and the intensity of hostility and mounting outbreak is palpable.

Under the guise of an Exxon Oil representative, Sona Jillani (Alexia Barlier) and two others meet with her contact in an attempt to  infiltrate the inside of the group in an effort to find out what plans are being formulated. They soon discover that this tactic is increasingly dangerous and have to abort to safety.  Both jihadist radicals and friendly Libyan militia are muddied together as people scurry through the streets making it difficult to determine who is friend and who is foe, especially once the chaos begins.  

On the evening of September 11, 2012, a group of Islamic insurgents penetrate and attack the compound with gunfire and explosives. The two local guards quickly abandon their posts and Stephens and Smith are guided to the safe room by a GS agent. The viewer is then brought to realism of authentic fear and violence and into an unimaginable scene of terrorism and hatred for the Americans pinned in the compound. Not able to access their targets, the militants pour diesel fuel into the building and set the building on fire in an attempt to flush Stevens and Smith out of the safe room with the resulting thick smoke. 

Back at the Annex, the security team pleads with the Chief to give them permission to go to the compound but the Chief instructs them to stand down holding that they are not first responders and that they have no jurisdiction in Benghazi. Remaining at the Annex becomes too much for the men and they choose to ignore the Chief’s orders and, even though they were not obligated to go into the chaos of the compound, do just that.

The six-man security force, Jack, Tyrone and rounded out by Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto (Pablo Schreiber), Mark ‘Oz’ Geist (Max Martini), John ‘Tig’ Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa), Dave ‘Boon’ Benton (David Denman) are highly trained American private security operatives, bravely prepared to utilize their military expertise against an all-out fury of warfare. 

The team navigates through the streets trying to get to the compound, tense with the heightened risk of attack by Jihads that could emerge from any building. Their covert purpose is suspected by a group that stops them from moving forward in a blocked street. With guns pointed at their heads, speaking in a language they cannot understand, being on edge is an understatement and they have only seconds to make crucial decisions.  

Once at the compound, Jack and Tyrone scour the smoke filled building for Stevens and Smith only to find Smith who had already succumbed to smoke inhalation.  Fearing that the Annex has been left vulnerable, they return to defend this building and the group that was now under attack. The team regroups and plans a strategic defense against a seemingly unsurmountable number of attackers who are well armed with secretly hidden and powerful weapons including mortar. The men took positions on the rooftops which gave them the ability to scan the immediate area for any militants looking to make a strike.

As they vaguely get a visual of a growing amount of bodies moving through the tall grass below, one of the men asks the Chief if they are expecting any friendlies and the Chief meekly responded, “I am not aware of any friendlies.” The attack commenced with fire coming from all directions. The security force was able to defend the annex from the rooftop and keep them at bay. 

During the moments of silence and wait after the first attack, all of the people trapped in the Annex and the men on the roof are praying for assistance from the U.S. military and for signs of fighter jets and tactical teams to arrive. They were advised that help was on the way but they were too far away to get there in time.

The subsequent mortar attack on the Annex resulted in former Navy SEAL Tyrone ‘Rone’ Woods and former Marine Glen “Bub” Doherty (Toby Stephens) also being killed.  Knowing that their team was now reduced and their defense was severely weakened, they could not withstand another round of mortar fire. Feeling anxious, they see a convoy of vehicles moving toward the Annex and try to muster enough energy to put up one last battle. But this time, these are a group of the Libyan army with reinforcements coming to their defense.

It was revealed by dawn, that Stevens had been found behind the compound and was pronounced dead from smoke inhalation. 

As the last of the security force stand on the tarmac awaiting their flight home, they reflect back on the fight that they managed to survive and are saddened for their brothers that did not. Comments scroll at the close of the movie stating that all of the surviving security team had retired and were living their life with their families.

The movie started out somewhat mundane and at one time, not having any knowledge of the real-life event, I felt that there might be little drama. But once the basis of the movie was laid out and the volatile nature of the area had been illustrated, everything moved quickly. At times amidst the attacks, there was no visual continuity and some scenes were choppy with the filming too erratic to follow.  The quiet seconds just before a major implode of gunfire and mortar built a suspenseful and climatic pretense and was just enough to allow you to mentally brace for the destruction to follow upon impact. 

John Krasinski and James Badge Dale were solid in their performances throughout the movie adding realism and raw emotion. The casting for ‘Oz’, ‘Tanto’ ‘Tig’ and ‘Boon’ modelled their characters effectively and enabled the viewer to become immersed in the story without any distraction. 

The soundtrack album for this action drama featured the film’s original music composed by Lorne Balfe (Terminator, Home, Penguins of Madagascar).

Director, Michael Bay and screenwriter Chuck Hogan lead the viewer through the event that caused the death of four Americans in a vicious and calculated attack on the compound and Annex, both ill-equipped to defend themselves.  It’s unfathomable to believe that the United States was reluctant to recognize the severity of the attack and the vulnerability of the trapped Americans in a war-torn country imbued with jihadist groups.

Regardless of your political interest and views, the significance of the event, the details of the attack, how the U.S. perceived an appropriate response and defense, and the ultimate loss of four lives makes this film a documented display of a commemorated attack and a must see.



Archive578934643832 Movie Review
By: David Allen : #658423 – X709