13 Hours

Posted by Joel Copling on January 12, 2016

Chuck Hogan's adaptation of the book by Mitchell Zuckoff that shares the surtitle of "13 Hours" smartly minimizes the partisan politics that might have torpedoed any chance of the film working on any level. There is no villifying of the U.S. government (beyond the bureaucratic official seen impeding possible rescue strategies) that might lead one to believe that Hogan is arguing on the side of the political right. Neither is there a sense that the film is entirely glorifying the actions of a government it would then inevitably treat as beyond the pail in the way the political left might lean. It is, simply and quite effectively, an account of the events that led to and followed the raid on the American embassy in Benghazi, Libya, that left an ambassador and a handful of U.S. operatives dead.

We get our introductions to the team. There is Jack Silva (John Krasinski), who is on his twelfth mission and has left behind a wife and two daughters (with another on the way, we learn). There is his old friend Tyrone "Rone" Woods (James Badge Dale), who feels guilt for pushing everyone away to which he bothered to become close. There are Kris "Tanto" Paronto (Pablo Schreiber), Dave "Boon" Benton (David Denman), John "Tig" Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa), and Mark "Oz" Geist (Max Martini), each of which thankfully gets a personality that sets him apart from the others (We are, at least, aware of who is who when their names are spoken or, more often than not, shouted tactically).

We are shoved straight into their current situation. After five weeks patrolling Benghazi, they are tasked with chauffeuring and protecting the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher). The news comes as a disappointment to the men, who feel their time could have been better spent going home for a stretch of time. Their captain (David Costabile) constantly reminds them that they are at the whims of the C.I.A. on this, that the ambassador has requested the best men currently available to do this job, and that it is their duty to protect and serve. After all, they are only a mile away from the compound, which is a makeshift embassy only and not genuine U.S. soil.

All Hell eventually breaks loose. Armed rioters in the streets that are sympathetic to terrorist causes storm the fortress and attack the embassy. Stevens is killed--though, at first, only presumed dead because of conflicting news and radio reports--and the team, joined after much squabbling over jurisdiction and a passionate, unsuccessful call for air support from French liaison Sona Jillani (Alexia Barlier) by Glen "Bub" Doherty (Toby Stephens) and another team of operatives, defend themselves from the oncoming horde. Even at just more than two hours, the film is surprisingly streamlined, and director Michael Bay handles the carnage in a way that never lets up on some truly armrest-gripping tension and never loses sight of the human element.

The film runs into some problems with how it deals with the character of the captain, who is relegated here to simply an antagonistic role, and on a dramatic level, the repetitive back-and-forth of trying to find someone to intervene becomes a bit tiresome. The performances are mostly as serviceable as they can be in the midst of chaos, though Krasinski has a few touching moments in which Silva wishes he was back home (and a late telephone call is particularly affecting). Most of all, though, is the takeaway that "13 Hours" puts the brunt of its impact on the story itself and not (until very late in the game or during situations that undermine it) what those power might have to say about it in such roundabout political terms. It's quite the impact.

Film Information

John Krasinski (Jack Silva), James Badge Dale (Tyrone "Rone" Woods), Pablo Schreiber (Kris "Tanto" Paronto), David Denman (Dave "Boon" Benton), Dominic Fumusa (John "Tig" Tiegen), Max Martini (Mark "Oz" Geist), Alexia Barlier (Sona Jillani), David Costabile (Bob), Peyman Moaadi (Amahl), Matt Letscher (Ambassador Chris Stevens), Toby Stephens (Glen "Bub" Doherty).

Directed by Michael Bay and written by Chuck Hogan, based on the book "13 Hours" by Mitchell Zuckoff.

Rated R (combat violence throughout, bloody images, language).

137 minutes.

Released on January 15, 2016.