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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Michael Bay efforts to keep the politics out of this movie, but, really, how can you keep the politics out of a movie about the terror that happened at Benghazi?

Focusing on the men who served as independent military contractors and drawing from a non-fiction book about the event, Bay has delivered not a particularly artful, but restrained, respectful and effective movie. While not maybe his most commercial, it’s certainly more serious than his previous hits. We begin hearing from a few of the men who were really there, one of whom insists the story is not about the politics. The purpose of this movie is to salute the people who were on the ground, we are told,  who lived (and died) to tell the story. And, pretty much, that’s what Bay does. Using a group of solid actors (led by a dramatically impressive John Krasinski), an early set up to establish some often too-thick back story and then a long, bloody and purposely exhausting battle scene, we are drawn in. The limited goofiness is there to remind us these men had their own language, as many had taken on assignments together before. They call each other brother. And each, it seems, has a beard, making it a bit tough on us to tell one from the other at times. But we admire their commitment, expertise and bravery. We don’t want to see any of them die.

Those hoping for a clear indictment to further their own agenda might be frustrated by what is on the screen. There is no mention of the Secretary of State, only one plot point reference to POTUS and no names given for any of the others who may or may not have been at least more helpful from the government or military.  And yet, lines are included referring to budget cuts, which led to limited security and intelligence on what is clearly stated to be a planned attack, not a spontaneous one gone terribly wrong.  Arab men insist Libya is their country and they want to decide its fate without outside influence.  We see several good guy locals, including the lovable, almost stereotypical interpreter;  we also see relatable fury as to the lack of response for help and one particularly chilling scene of Muslim men praying in a mosque, machine guns propped against the walls.

If its intention is to ensure our appreciation for the men who fought so valiantly, this movie hits the bull’s eye. It also makes our hearts ache for the world in which we need them.

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