13 Hours is a 2016 film depicting the 2012 Islamist siege on diplomatic and CIA american compounds in Benghazi, Libya. I kept noticing it on amazon prime so decided to give it a try. It took me three days to get through the film, in part due to my ankle biters, in part because the film is long- nearly 2 1/2 hours.
While watching this film what amazed me the most is that it was made at all. How did this get through liberal Hollywood? (No matter what your politics, you have to admit Hollywood is quite liberal!) While not directly addressing politics, the film depicts the Obama administration’s response to the Benghazi siege as at best inept, and at worst willfully indifferent to the lives of its ambassador and agents.
The first 45 minutes of the film are slow and choppy. The cinematography employs an annoying “shaky cam” technique which I guess is supposed to make us feel close to the action, but to me it just looked sloppy. Interspersed with the shaky cam are sweeping panoramas backed with melancholy music. I guess this was supposed to make the film feel atmospheric. But instead of atmospheric or edgy, the end result is discombobulated. However, the depiction of the siege begins around 0:43 and the remainder of the movie functions as a much better executed “film within a film.”
13 Hours is based on a book of the same name by Mitchell Zuckoff, written in cooperation with the annex security team that single handedly defended the compound where nearly two dozen CIA agents, including women, were housed. These men were former special forces now employed as private military contractors– a controversial phenomena that is increasing worldwide, with nebulous moral and legal boundaries.
While the overview of the battle is likely accurate, I’m not sure if smaller plot details really happened or if they were interspersed for dramatic flavor. Was there really a beautiful CIA agent with a french accent, who brattily rebuffs attempts to save her life? Was the CIA chief really a thickheaded blowhard? Did Boon really quote Joseph Campbell?
The slow opening notwithstanding, this is a good film that provides a fascinating and tragic glimpse into the events of the siege. If you’re curious about the events of Benghazi, 13 Hours comes highly recommended.