Director Michael Bay’s film adaptation of Michael Zuckoff’s book, “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi” — which was retitled for the screen to the more provocative 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi — will be heading to the home entertainment market place as a stand-alone DVD presentation and as a double-disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo Pack edition on June 7.
The ARR works out to 144 days and box office receipts were an impressive $52.9 million.
The film is pretty much apolitical, which was also the trust of Zuckoff’s book. The action on Sept. 11 and 12 of 2012 in Benghazi is presented from the POV of the CIA contractors (dubbed the Global Response Staff, or simply GRS — CIA speak for “hired guns’), who were there to defend the “Annex” (a CIA “listening post” set up to monitor events in Libya) and no mention is made of either the President or the Secretary of State by name, nor any overt reason for Stevens to be where he was other than to reach out to more moderate elements of the Libyan community.
If you need a point of reference as to what the film is about, think along the lines of director Ridley Scott’s Black Hawk Down … both films are remarkably similar in tone. Basically, you have two buildings a little over a mile apart in Benghazi, a place that has turned into the Wild West. Muammar Gaddafi is gone, there is a power vacuum and everyone has guns … and Americans get caught up in the chaos as events unfold at these two locations.
The aforementioned “Annex” is home to the CIA (about 20 or so technicians) and a six-member team of highly skilled ex-Navy and ex-Army personnel. The other place was Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens’ “Special Mission” facility and it looked more like a Palm Springs luxury home than an official State Department Embassy compound. Over 2,200 linear feet of perimeter walls made the place indefensible. It was a seven-acre property, with an upscale central residence, and a very, very nice swimming pool.
To give you some idea of what a seven-acre luxury “estate” would be like to defend, the Alamo was a 4.2 acre complex and 183 soldiers couldn’t hold it … in contrast, Stevens (played by Matt Letscher) had just three armed State Department men as his security detail, so the chances of fighting off any sort of attack was a fool’s errand from the get-go. The local security was a joke, and frankly no one could tell the good guys from the bad guys.
That’s your set-up. Stevens is there and when the attack begins his security men get him into the “safe room” along with an unarmed IT technician by the name of Sean Smith (Christopher Dingli). The room works as it was designed to work and the attackers were unable to get at the Ambassador … so out of frustration they set fire to the place. It would later be revealed that both Smith and Stevens died of smoke inhalation.
From the “Annex” they can see the smoke coming from the compound and after an internal debate between the CIA chief (played by David Costabile) and the GRS staff a rescue mission is launched. The CIA guy — who is simply named “Bob” (played by David Costabile) — fears that if his security team is gone they will be undefended. His fears are well-grounded.
When the GRS team returns with Smith’s body and the three State Department operatives make their way to the “Annex” the action shifts there. Repeated assaults upon the compound are turned back by the GRS team during the balance of the night and into pre-dawn darkness of the following day. Again, think Black Hawk Down.
There’s a signature Michael Bay scene in the aftermath of the battle where the local women — wives, mothers, sisters — “poetically” search for their love ones (it’s actually quite effective, but so very Michael Bay).
Meanwhile, another GRS team arrives at the airport and begins negotiations with the local Libyan military command to render aid. At dawn, the attackers are better able to zero in on the “Annex” with mortar rounds and it is at this time that GRS members Glen "Bub" Doherty (Toby Stephens — as Captain Flint in the Black Sails television series) and Tyrone S. "Rone" Woods (James Badge Dale — The Walk, World War Z, etc.) are killed.
The movie ends with the “Annex” rescue and the surviving GRS team members standing guard over the fallen on the tarmac at the airport (again, a Michael Bay signature scene).
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a well-produced, action-oriented re-telling of the events of the day. If you come the film looking for answers as to the “why of it” … you’ll have to look elsewhere.
As to bonus features, these are limited to the Blu-ray SKU. There is over an hour’s worth of material on a companion Blu-ray disc to the film itself that breaks down in to three components — “For the Record: Finding the Truth Amid the Noise,” “Uncovering Benghazi’s Secret Soldiers” and Preparing for Battle: Behind the Scenes of 13 Hours.”