13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi
John Krasinski, Pablo Schreiber, James Badge Dale
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…as ideologically facile as one might expect it to be…
In 2012, following the death of Muammar Gaddafi and the fall of the Libyan regime, the US posted CIA operatives to Benghazi, ostensibly to gather intel on warring guerrilla factions and to stem the tide of black market arms trading. Six men brought in as contractor bodyguards were tasked with protecting the US ambassador on his visit to the city, but the operation went fatally wrong when the embassy was attacked and torched. A thirteen-hour siege followed, between the Americans and the nameless Benghazi factions bent on killing them, as the CIA scrambled to abort their operation and flee the country.
Based on Mitchell Zuckoff’s book of the same title, Michael Bay’s (Transformers) celluloid adaptation is as ideologically facile as one might expect it to be. 13 Hours is 144 minutes of rapid gun fire, explosions, and frantic running. No attempt whatsoever is made to examine or even identify the nature of the conflict: neither why the Americans need to be there, nor why the Libyans want to kill them. The fact that Bay’s only interest is in the sensory aspect of conflict wholly undermines the serious nature of the subject matter.
The six bodyguards who are the ensemble protagonists of the film are all action-hero caricatures whose moral infallibility is designed to deliberately reflect the pantomime version of the country that they represent: America the Great Protector, Guardian of the Universe. Of all the Libyans in the film, there is about one – a translator, working for the CIA – who is not seen packing a gun or braying for blood. They never get the chance to speak or say anything; they are depicted mostly as lethal automatons. Filmed mostly in the shadows by Bay, they more than often don’t even have faces. While every American casualty is treated as grievous, the Libyans are popped off indiscriminately throughout. If from all this one might conjecture that Bay is making a point, in practice, it never feels like his political apathy extends beyond adrenalised patriotism, and that is the film in a nutshell.