Movie review: ‘13 Hours’ has a lot of firepower and real heroes

What It’s About

The tumultuous and tragic events of Sept. 11, 2012, that left four Americans dead in Libya come to light in the riveting “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi.”

This frenetic account of what really happened that harrowing night is set up to make viewers mad. Eyes will be opened and outrage will grow as an inadequately protected U.S. diplomatic compound becomes a sitting duck target.

Islamic militants stormed the secret place during a time of turbulent civil unrest post-Gaddafi, and Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and U.S. Foreign Service information officer Sean Smith were killed.

At the nearby CIA outpost known as the Annex, ex-Navy SEAL Tyrone “Rone” Woods and Glen “Bub” Doherty, a military operator sent to help from Tripoli, died during a later mortar attack.

Many fingers have been pointed in the years since, particularly those with political agendas, but the movie’s intent is to show a genuine sense of real American heroes responding to the call of duty.

The bravery and valor of six ex-military special operators, part of the Globe Response Services team hired by the CIA to provide security in high-threat areas, is highlighted. Three of the six were advisers on the film, and all five surviving teammates were interviewed for Mitchell Zuckoff’s 2014 nonfiction book “13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi.”

They did not have to help when they received an urgent call from the compound, but their willingness to put themselves on the line for other Americans was the reason they put themselves in harm’s way.

Against overwhelming odds, they battled terrorists and saved numerous lives, averting an even bigger tragedy.

Screenwriter Chuck Hogan (“The Town”) unfolds the story in procedural fashion, using every cliche imaginable. He ramps up emotions through portrayal of each man’s back-home family life.


The authentic feel of their “band of brothers” bond fares the best, as the capable cast honors their real-life counterparts.

John Krasinski (“The Office”) and James Badge Dale (“Iron Man 3”) as ex-Navy SEALS Jack Silva and Tyrone “Rone” Woods, Pablo Schrieber (“Orange is the New Black”) as ex-Army Ranger Kristian “Tanto” Paronto, Dave “Boon” Benton (“The Office”), and Max Martini (“Captain Phillips”) and Dominic Fumusa (“Nurse Jackie”) as ex-Marines Mark “Oz” Geist and John “Tig” Tiegen are believable as these dedicated soldiers.

Toby Stephens, Maggie Smith’s son, is the doomed Doherty. However, sometimes it’s hard to distinguish them — those beards and similar appearances.

Dave Costabile (“Breaking Bad”) is the bureaucrat CIA chief that grows more despicable as bad decisions and ridiculous alpha-male jockeying occur.

What Works

Their selfless actions and the sacrifices they made are brought to the forefront, and it’s a powerful story that begs to be told.

What Doesn’t Work

Director Michael Bay’s bombastic touch works here to a certain extent, as the story requires lots of firepower.

But the chaos of the situation is enhanced through his choppy presentation — it is hard to distinguish what is happening sometimes amid the action.

Nevertheless, the film will prompt you to salute these fine men for their service to our country.

  • Director: Michael Bay
  • Cast: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, David Denman, Max Martini, Pablo Schrieber, Dominic Fumusa, and David Costabile.
  • Rated R (for strong combat violence throughout, bloody images, and language)
  • 144 minutes