13 Hours is based on the accounts of five members of a special operations force [Global Response Staff (GSR)] that was contracted by the CIA to provide back-up security in Benghazi, Libya, written up in a book by Mitchell Zuckoff. The team is sent to a “temporary diplomatic outpost” which they find woefully inadequate in security measures and they question the competence of the local guards. According to the book and the film, the chief officer (played by David Constabile) is dismissive of them, questions their judgment, and is critically slow in making emergency decisions. This is alarming when we learn of the experience and judgment previously shown by the individuals in the GSR. The film is not meant to be a political statement or exploration of cultural elements of the September 11, 2012, attack; it’s a reflection of what the team experienced in the operation, their doubts, their pain, and love for one another; and, finally, reveals a certain amount of resentment that the country did not fully acknowledge their heroism.
For the average viewer, the film is difficult to watch, in that it’s like reading a warrior’s diary that only talks about battles, the tediousness of waiting for the next round—whatever that may be—and the frustration of bureaucracy and an incompetent leader. Yes, we see a number of sieges taking place, the infrared views of terrorists sneaking up to the compound, and endless exchanges of barrages of bullets and mortars, but through the lens of a jumpy camera in the dark, which reveals little about who the figures are.
I find that the biggest fault of this film is that it offers little about the political/social context in which the action takes place. It seems like the GSR team is so much more capable than the CIA and the U.S. government powers that be—and that may very well be true. However, the film does not provide the viewer with any validation of the premise and does not go into any of the complexities involved in personal, cultural, or international terms.
Direction by Michael Bay, cinematography of Dion Beebe, and the portrayals by actors John Krasinski, Max Martini, and David Constabile are OK, especially the brother-to-brother talks about what everything meant in the end; I just wanted more. I am glad to have heard the account of this trying time, however. Maybe I’m expecting too much. Wouldn’t it have been great if the film could have explained more than what the government-appointed review board and Senate/House Committees uncovered?
Battle scenes galore without much elucidation.
Grade: C By Donna R. Copeland