The story most of us know about Benghazi includes the death of an American Ambassador, a video called Innocence of Muslims, State Department emails, the foul-ups of U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, what Hillary Clinton did and did not know and when she did and did not know it, and four years of political football that has included Congressional hearings more or less designed to derail Clinton’s presidential bid.
What almost no one understands is what the hell actually happened that night, and while I’m certain that Michael Bay’s account took a lot of action-movie liberties and injected some unnecessary hoo-ra one-liners into the proceedings, at least it provides us with the gist of the events that unfolded over a terrifying 13 hours in which it must have felt like the entire city of Benghazi was swarming a CIA complex holding 30-some odd people protected by a six CIA contractors.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is the story of those CIA contractors, and for what they went through that night, they deserve the jingoistic Michael Bay treatment. Being depicted by bearded, hot-as-fuck actors like John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, and David Denman is the least we could do for them. While they couldn’t save Ambassador Chris Stevens, they put their lives at extreme risk (and in some cases, lost those lives) to protect themselves and others from an assault of 125 and 150 gunmen using “rocket-propelled grenades, hand grenades, AK-47 and FN F2000 assault rifles, diesel canisters, mortars, and heavy machine guns and artillery mounted on gun trucks.”
Can you imagine? I mean, really imagine what it must have felt like to look down 150 people shooting rocket-propelled grenades and mortars at you? Anyone else in a Libyan Alamo situation would’ve shat their pants and waited to die, but these men climbed up on a roof and, while under heavy artillery fire, held off a bunch of terrorists in an attack in a country the CIA contractors did not give a shit about in a conflict they didn’t understand. Moreover, they did it without the assistance of the United States military, who wouldn’t even give so much as a “fuck-you flyover” from a fighter jet.
Are the characters in 13 Hours complex, well-rounded individuals? Not really, but they feel human enough that when John Krasinski’s character breaks down into tears, it’s affecting. Is Chuck Hogan’s dialogue Shakespearean? No, but the wisecracks are delivered well by Krasinski, James Badge Dale, and especially Schreiber, and there’s just enough substance between the platitudes to make us feel something for the characters. Unsurprisingly, there’s also no shortage of whizzing bullets, fires, and explosions, but if you’ve seen images of the American consulate and the CIA annex in the aftermath, you’ll understand that the reality of 13 Hours can’t be that far off.
War movies have changed a lot over the years, as the types of battles we engage in have evolved from thousand-member infantry units against 10,000 ground troops to six or seven guys engaging in rescue missions, like Zero Dark Thirty or Lone Survivor. However, the sense of helplessness, of being overpowered hasn’t changed.
What has changed, however, is the connection between the soldiers and the cause. We knew what we were fighting for in World War II; we at least understood that Vietnam was about saving the world from Communism. But Marcus Luttrell didn’t really understand why he was involved in a mission to capture Ahmad Shah, and Chris Kyle had little idea why he was shooting at people, he was just following orders. The CIA contractors in 13 Hours didn’t even have the benefit of saying they were following orders. They were trying to save their lives and those of others because that was their job.
I will never understand men and women like that, but I respect the hell out of them, and if Michael Bay wants to spend $50 million waving the American flag and blowing up shit in their honor, I’m not going to take potshots at the Baynis. I’m going to give the man a big, dopey salute for cutting through all the political bullshit and reminding us that underneath the war of words between politicians, there are brave men and women risking their lives and dying so that we can squabble over petty matters on the Internet. They may not always be the most subtle directors, but we need people like Peter Berg, Clint Eastwood, Kathryn Bigelow and even Michael Bay to transform news headlines into stories about real people making real sacrifices.
Here’s Kristy interviewing three of the real-life CIA contractors for ScreenRant.