Earlier this week I saw the movie 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. Even before the movie has released, it has gotten a good bit of notice for obvious reasons: it is dealing with a subject that remains a hot topic, especially with the presidential election in full swing.
So what did I think of the movie? I’m glad you asked.
I’m not a fan of Michael Bay movies. So many of his movies seem to be more explosions than plot. I leave the theater reeling from an overdose of special effects. With 13 Hours, though, Bay has delivered a well-done movie. Sure, it’s still packed with a lot of explosives, but they are central to the story.
The story centers on the September 11, 2012 attack on the American compound at Benghazi, Libya. The news pundits and everyone with an opinion have been discussing these events for two years. What did the President know? What did the Secretary of State know? What could’ve been done differently—and why wasn’t it?
The movie never asks those questions. The event is presented solely from the perspective of the security detail—the small group of men assigned to the American compound. This is not a Hollywood-ized version of the events like the other big movie out right now. (Revenant is based on a true event, but people and details have been added to enhance the drama.)
So 13 Hours just presents what happens at Benghazi without directly dealing with all the political questions and squabbling. Yet the movie made a strong political statement without ever making a direct political statement.
For example, the CIA in Benghazi stayed in continual contact with the state department and the Pentagon regarding the events as they happened. We see brief scenes of other military bases and military leaders in the Pentagon receiving the news and discussing the events, but they are very brief scenes. And no attempt was made to paint the Pentagon as the bad guys. Back in Benghazi, those on the phones just reported to the others, “Support is not coming.” The dialogue in the compound included no opinions or reactions to that news. “WHY AREN’T THEY COMING? DOESN’T THE PRESIDENT CARE WE ARE UNDER ATTACK?”
But because we in the audience have been placed in the compound with the soldiers and CIA, we are the ones asking those questions.
During one of the brief scenes of the news being received at the Pentagon, Michael Bay included a cutaway shot of the White House. No dialogue—just the image. The movie made no attempt to put words in the President’s mouth, but by simply showing the White House, Bay communicated the silence of the White House.
That is why I contend the producers made a strong political statement without making one. They didn’t politicize what happened, but by simply showing events from the perspective of those in Benghazi, they let the viewers draw their own conclusions.
I’d like to know your thoughts about the movie. What did you talk about on the way home from the theater?