‘13 Hours: The secret soldiers of Benghazi’

Published 10:47 am Wednesday, January 20, 2016

by Chuck Lilley

Political controversy, disputed scenes and emotionally charged movie reviews abound with the recent release of “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.” The film recounts the tragic attack by Islamic militants of the U.S. State Department’s Benghazi, Libyan compound on Sept. 11, 2012. Typical of the erupting political firestorm is recent, emotional rhetoric by CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani, “…it’s shameful that those responsible for the movie, in order to highlight the heroism of some, felt the need to denigrate the courage of other Americans who served in harm’s way.”

Listed are several “moments of truth” related to the film for perspective:

(1) Action-oriented Director Michael Bay (“Pearl Harbor,” “Transformers” series), and screenwriter/novelist Chuck Hogan (“Prince of Thieves”) are on record as having set aside political agendas with a desire “to do justice to the selfless behavior of the combat participants.”

(2) Bay and Hogan worked closely with the surviving CIA Benghazi-based American security contractors to realistically depict the actual events described within Mitchell Zuckoff’s 2014 novel, “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened In Benghazi.”

(3) The controversial “Stand-down” order within the film is not linked to any official top-down directive from the highest U.S. political or military levels.

(4) Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is never referenced within the film.

(5) The contentious Internet video that was quickly promoted by Ambassador Susan Rice, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama as being responsible for the Benghazi attack, is merely a passing remark among security team members.

(6) Timely air support during the attack is requested by the besieged CIA personnel, but fails to materialize.

Academy Award-winning cinematographer Dion Beebe’s (“Memoirs of a Geisha,” “Collateral”) early scenes of armed vehicles winding through Benghazi’s lawless, serpentine streets are powder kegs for the ill-fated Benghazi Compound siege. Michael Bay is simply a master at directing pyrotechnical action-sequences. The intense waves of militant attacks upon the outnumbered Benghazi defenders, the CIA’s frustration over lack of air support, and the sheer intensity throughout the film’s two and one half-hour run time is an exhausting, emotional roller-coaster. Similar to Jason Hall’s “American Sniper” screenplay, Chuck Hogan’s touching back-stories of stateside ties relieve the intermittent onslaught of Islamic militants. The family links are especially heart-breaking when several of the CIA contractor’s fall in battle while defending their brothers-in-arms.

A chiseled John Krasinski (NBC’s sitcom “The Office”) is substantive in his role as contractor Jack Da Silva. One of the film’s best moments occurs when Da Silva struggles to justify his high-risk security employment in a foreign land to the option of family surroundings and safer, stateside employment.

“Why do we do what we do?” he asks CIA Security Chief (played by “The Departed” actor James B. Dale) The telling reply is almost worth the price of admission.

Ignore the political firestorms, bring a handkerchief and see this heart-felt film of sheer bravery in combat, loyalty and family sacrifice. You will observe tough-minded warriors who offered

U.S. citizens in peril their absolute best. You cannot leave the theater without a sense of shame that our country’s supposedly absolute best was not offered to these brave men. They certainly deserved it.

Chuck’s rating: five thumbs up out of five