Movie Review | 13 Hours

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In case you didn’t know, the film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is based on the accounts from the book with the slightly longer name, 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, and not the White House and State Department accounts. There’s no doubt that the real story goes far beyond the original official White House spin of a ‘protest gone awry’; we lost our first sitting foreign ambassador in more than 30 years and several more good American men.

And yes, it does matter. But that’s for another day. Today, let’s talk about the film itself.

Walking into 13 Hours, like other historical movies, you already know the ending (at least if you’ve been paying attention). The fact that the Astronauts made it back from the Apollo 13 mission didn’t make it any less of a movie, and the same goes for 13 Hours.

Right from the beginning, you’ll be sucked in by the tension, and the longish (by modern standards) 2.5-hour movie doesn’t ever feel like one. You’re brought into this shithole of a world in a shithole of a situation, and you’re there to stay.

Right from the beginning, you’ll be sucked in by the tension.

The action sequences are visceral and largely realistic. This is an R-rated movie, not some kiddo-no-blood-shoot-em-up (nor would that be appropriate). Okay, you do get some Hollywood explosions, since everyone in the movie business thinks everything blows up in huge flames that look strangely like a wrap of det cord around a milk jug full of gasoline. Several cars that wouldn’t otherwise flip over do flip over and some electronics make noises they shouldn’t. Blame the director (for more on Hollywoodisms, check out this post).

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The chaos is palatable, and the confusion about who is or isn’t an enemy at any given time is effectively transferred to the viewing audience.

I’ve long held that comedic actors make for the best dramatic actors. Think about the transition of Tom Hanks from Big and Turner and Hooch to Saving Private Ryan and Castaway. John Krasinski may indeed turn that corner as well. Yes, Jim from The Office was a believable bad motherfucker (and to be fair, so was David Denman, who played Roy on that same show). Maybe Pam left a bad taste in their mouths and they had to go do work instead. Max Martini is used to playing the badass SF role, as he spent four seasons playing an SMU guy on the TV show The Unit.


Overall they come off as confident and capable men who have to chew through an entire shit sandwich. Which is exactly what the real men were.

There is more focus on the family lives of the fighting men than you usually might see in such films. It’s not as brow-beating as The Thin Red Line, where a character keeps flashing back to his family while in the midst of a gunfight, but it’s there. No doubt the director wanted audience members to connect more with the characters.

Insofar as placing blame, nothing directly falls on anyone in the administration during the film. But they did show a whole bunch of different units tooling up to help, and as we well remember, not going anywhere. The rationale is left up to the viewer. If they don’t know, hopefully, they’ll Google. The CIA station chief does indeed catch the brunt of the blame, with the now-controversial ‘Stand Down!’ order given audibly and obviously in the movie. And the State Department guys are also shown no love. The only characters developed are the GRS guys, but hey, it’s a movie about them—so I’m not complaining.


My recommendation, of course, and as usual, is to read the book before watching the movie. However, not reading the book first in this instance won’t take anything away from the film as a standalone item.

8.5/10, definitely recommend. And rest in peace, Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, Tyrone Woods, Glen Doherty, and Sean Smith.

(For more on the guns & gear used in the movie, check out this article.)


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Emeritus Dave Merrill wrote for Breach-Bang-Clear from late 2013 until early 2017, including a year as its Managing Editor. He departed our ranks in May of 2017 to accept a well-deserved position as social media manager for RECOIL Magazine. He is a combat veteran of the Marine Corps who describes himself as a "...former urban warfare and foreign weapons instructor for Coalition fighting men." Merrill's articles are well worth the time it takes to read them - there's a lot of knowledge tucked away in that skull.

DFM has 82 posts and counting. See all posts by DFM

4 thoughts on “Movie Review | 13 Hours

  • January 29, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Sucks isn’t necessarily a bad thing. He looked real cute at Range Day

  • January 28, 2016 at 8:04 am

    Almost finished with the book. Can’t wait to finish it and see the flick.

    Merrill kinda sucks

    • January 28, 2016 at 9:18 am

      Yes Tom, he does KINDA – but holy shit does he look good in silkies (seriously — the lad has gams). Plus he’s one of the hardest working motherfuckers on the planet, which is great for us. At least until he decides to go full retard evil genius and take over the world from his secret volcano lair, but we figure we have at least until his daughter his kindergarten before we have to worry about that. So, we’re going to ruthlessly and shamelessly exploit him for our own gain until then. Mad Duo


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