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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

1313 Hours is a tough movie to watch.

I had trepidations about going to see it, not because I’d read the book (I have not), or because I thought it might make me mad from a political perspective, (I’d heard enough about it from the talk radio my wife listens to, to know that it wasn’t going to be a typical leftist screed).  No, I wasn’t sure I wanted to see it because, ironically, I didn’t want the movie to be a political movie. Turning the heroism and sacrifices of the Americans who died there into a political diatribe – even if correct – just wasn’t something I was interested in.

13 Hours is not a movie with a political agenda.

That being said, it is pretty difficult not to draw some conclusions.  Facts are facts. Or, as John Adams famously said,

Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passion, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.

And, the reality is, the facts of what transpired during the 13 Hours depicted in the movie, are inescapable and stark.

But I started this review by saying that it was a tough movie to watch. In the space of about two and a half hours, the movie forges an emotional bond between the characters and the audience.  And, the action during the movie builds and maintains a level of nerve-wracking, edge of the seat, adrenaline-juicing activity, that keeps the viewer on edge more than any Daniel Craig, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Matt Damon, or (name your action star) – movie.  Why?

To be sure, director Michael Bay did a phenomenal job with the filming and special effects, as did the actors in their battle scenes. But the difference for this viewer was that this movie was not about suspending disbelief and enjoying a thrill ride, while knowing in the back of my mind that “this isn’t real.”  What comes through in 13 Hours is that “this is what happened.”  There was no agenda, other than to let the world know what happened, and to honor the men who died there.

One  of the things that struck me, during the course of the film, was the peek it provided behind the curtain at the world of “security contractors.”  These guys shared a lot of common traits.  None of them were super young.  Pretty much all of them were married and had kids.  They were warriors at the top of their game, trained as elite fighting men, who needed to earn a living.  Many had tried other careers after leaving the military, and either could not make ends meet, or were driven to use the skills that had been so thoroughly inculcated in them by the Seals, Rangers, etc.

I had certain vague notions of what such people were like, developed over the years from watching movies with big, bad guys, mercenaries, etc.  Such men were simply testosterone-filled bad-assess, who were either caricatures like Everett McGill in Under Siege Two, or Gary Busey in the first of those movies.  (These are entertaining movies, if not terribly realistic.)

Instead, what I discovered is that, yes, while these guys are awesome warriors, they are also men of character who share a bond of brotherhood that I doubt anyone else could possibly understand. They were no less patriotic for no longer wearing the uniform. Throughout the film they refer to one another as “brother.”  This is not an affectation – it is an affirmation of the bond between these guys. They are not sociopathic killers for hire as frequently portrayed in popular movies.

The guys in this movie are real-life heroes. But not everyone depicted in the film is so admirable.  The CIA Chief of Station, for instance, is portrayed as a bit of an ass. Even so, this viewer was not totally unsympathetic to the character.  He was a man out of his depth, scared to death, afraid for the safety of his own compound, afraid to make a decision, and getting no support from those higher up the food chain.  Unlike some pundits, I don’t think he was portrayed as a villain, by the movie, and not even as entirely detestable.

The lack of understanding and wide-eyed idealism displayed by the employees of the state department and CIA is easy to understand and mirrors that of the present administration.  Even in the midst of the attack, many were seemingly unable to believe that this was happening to them.

There were many poignant moments in the film, but perhaps the saddest was at the end of the movie when you see the crowds of Libyans mourning Ambassador Stevens and holding up signs of regret for their country.  This is followed by some text on the screen which refers to Libya as a failed state now under the control of ISIS.  The audience is not whipped up to an anti-Muslim furor, but is shown instead how very complex things are.  It’s very difficult to tell the good guys from the bad guys.  The bad guys are indeed despicable, but they are not all bad guys.  In fact, it is the Libyans who finally rescue the survivors of the compound.

There are also moments that are infuriating as well as poignant, such as when one of the CIA agents realizes that all of her calls for assistance are being ignored.  Or, when one of the characters observes at the end of the movie that it is a Libyan transport that is going to take them out, and that even then there will be no American assistance.

This is a movie worth seeing, and those with eyes to see and ears to hear will draw their own conclusions.  It is a tough movie to watch, but watch it you should.




1 Ann Herzer { 01.16.16 at 5:11 pm }

Good review of this outstanding movie. All so true but sad!


2 madmemere { 01.17.16 at 12:27 am }

And watch it we did; there were no disappointments here- – it was factual and all too realistic. Any of US who have followed conservative media reports, from the very beginning, including interviews done by Doug Hagmann (Canada Free Press) of an administration insider referred to a “Rosebud” and the majority of witness testimony, before Trey Gowdy’s special Benghazi committee, had a relatively accurate picture of all that transpired in that hideous attack. We were and are aware of the absolute deception and disloyalty, of the current regime and its supporters/co-conspiritors, toward any and all of our military and national security personnel. My only disappointment is the utterly disgraceful state to which our nation has fallen! It makes US ask “Is there any way out”? Well, yes; but it means ALL of US have to stand up, speak out and TAKE OUR COUNTRY BACK from the criminality currently entrenched in the “district of corruption”!


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