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Sunday, April 23, 2017

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Benghazi! was the cry of conservatives during the presidential campaign, a story so over-worked that it seemed a movie would be superfluous. And, indeed, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, is a routine patriotic shoot-em-up from Michael Bay. It has six he-men actors, all of them white, all looking vaguely alike, rescuing a CIA outpost in that Libyan city against insurgents.

Michael Bay's strength is action, and this movie, which is almost two-and-a-half hours, has it. There is a very high body count, most of it consisting of the faceless Libyans who are killed video-game style. I certainly don't sympathize with their politics, as they did set out to and succeed killing the U.S. ambassador, but I've had it with movies that have one American soldier dying as a huge tragedy while they die by the dozens and no one cares.

This film seemed to be trying to cash in on the American Sniper phenomenon of conservatives going to see movies, but it didn't work, as 13 Hours is Michael Bay's lowest grosser ever. Maybe it's because Americans had become so sick of hearing of the place.

The script, by Chuck Hogan, is pretty dreadful. John Kasinski, who I will forever associate with Jim from The Office, never feels right as an ex-Navy Seal, no matter how much work he did in the gym. He's a contracted soldier, hired to protect the CIA outpost, which is run by a dick (Dave Constable) who seems to be representing the Obama administration in the great scheme of things, while James Badge Dale, as "Rone," is the man of action who doesn't cotton to following orders. There are some of those heartfelt conversations about being away from family, and fighting for a country where they are not wanted, and the dialogue is amateurish.

When the embassy is over run by Libyan baddies, Constable tells the security force, who are at the CIA annex a mile away, not to move. This is disputed by those who were there. Also disputed is that there was a refusal to send air support. In any event, most of the film is like watching someone else play a video game, and for Americans to take satisfaction in their toughness and superior firepower wiping out Muslims by the dozen.

The six men involved were certainly brave, as was anyone who was in that situation, but this movie doesn't honor them, it honors jingoism and Islamophobia. In less vainglorious hands, it might have made a good, insightful action film.

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