Year Released: 2016
Directed by: Michael Bay
Starring: John Krasinski, James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, Max Martini, Toaby Stephens, David Costabile
(R, 144 min.)
Genre: Drama, Action and Adventure
“The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.” Edmund Burke
The grandstanding politicians, the dull as dishwater bureaucrats, and the pontificating pundits have all had their say about Benghazi. One group has remained mostly silent – the actual people on the ground there. Michael Bay finally lets them have their say in this tense and riveting film.
Mark Twain once said, “It’s a terrible death to be talked to death,” a truth director Michael Bay obviously understands. He tells his tale with visceral imagery and captures his audience in a way the Congressional Hearings snooze fest could not even imagine.
Part of the film’s impact comes from its point of view. This tale is told by the little guys, so to speak, the team of six military contractors assigned to the secret U.S. Diplomatic Compound in Benghazi:
Jack (John Krasinski), Rone (James Badge Dale), Tanto (Pablo Schreiber), Boon (Dave Denman), Tig (Dominic Fumusa), and Oz (Max Martini).
They do not have much interest in the complex politics behind this country in chaos, nor do they much care. Just like the two minor characters featured in Tom Stoppard's retelling of Hamlet, they are “caught up in high level intrigue beyond their comprehension or caring.”
In that case, they are also a little like the leads in two of Clint Eastwood’s excellent films, Letters from Iwo Jima and American Sniper, whose title character, Chris Kyle, says, “I didn’t risk my life to bring democracy to Iraq. I risked my life for my buddies, to protect my friends and fellow countrymen."
In 13 Hours:The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi the contractors are hardened military operatives, at least two of them former SEALS. They risk their lives for everyone in the compound – nearly 40 CIA operatives and technocrats, but they get little respect from them. Instead the CIA personnel treat them like so much hired help. One of the operatives is especially indignant when the ride is rough as they careen through the streets trying to dodge hostile militias. When she complains, Mark “Oz: Geist (Max Martini) quickly silences her. “I need your eyes and ears. Not your mouth.”
Further condescension comes from the station chief Bob (David Costabile), who is about to retire and doesn’t want to sully his record by any untoward ingenuity, such as the team leaving the secret compound to rescue Ambassador Stephens (Matt Letscher) and the small staff at the temporary embassy. Though the team is suited up and ready to ride to the rescue, he tells them to stand down.
The Ambassador is in his safe haven. You are not the first responders. You are the last resort. You will wait.
That delay of 30 minutes, until the men actually override his orders and leave on their own, turns out to be the difference between life and death for the ambassador and technical chief Sean Smith (Christopher Dingli).
No wonder the CIA is screaming like a stuck pig about the film.
A word one might never associate with director Michael “Transformers” Bay is subtlety, but oddly, it fits here. Just as Kathryn Bigelow did in Zero Dark Thirty, Bay respects his audience and to a great extent lets them make up their own minds about the controversial politics here. We have only the briefest glimpse of President Obama’s televised hopes for a peaceful transition from Muammar Gaddafi ‘s iron rule. But it’s enough to demonstrate the ironic difference in the vicious chaos that follows.
The infamous reference to a demonstration over an incendiary video as the cause of the violence almost sneaks by us on a TV located obscurely at the edge of the screen. There is no dramatic reaction, just a terse denial of any such thing by one of the contractors.
One of them, Boon (David Denman) speaks these words to Bob, the priggish CIA Station Chief. But the same might be said by Michael Bay to the usual arbiters of truth who run our government or write our news:
You're not giving orders anymore. You're in my world now.
I suggest you get close up and personal in Michael Bay's compelling world and see this film now.
In spite of their condescending CIA bureau chief, the surrounding hostile heavily armed populace, and a daily routine that alternates between boredom and peril, the food at the CIA compound is good.
During those long hours when nothing much is happening, our soldiers would surely enjoy this savory Libyan Herb Bread.
It comes out soft and just right every time. In Libya it is customary to sit around to gossip and drink tea in the evening. And the tea, flavored with anything from mint and sage to almonds and rose petals, is usually served with baskets of savory finger food like this.
Libyan Herb Bread
1 cup warm milk and 1/2 cup warm water (or one and a half cups warm water)
1/2 cup warm water for the yeast (25g fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon dried yeast + 1 teaspoon sugar)
4 cups fine white flour
About 50ml olive oil
4 teaspoons sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoon baking powder
Flavorings According Taste:
Green and/or black olives
Chili peppers (optional)
For the dough, put all the liquid ingredients together and mix well with the yeast and sugar. Add the flour with baking powder and salt. It should be a soft dough.
Mix the chopped ingredients with the dough.
Add the olive oil and mix well. Cover and set aside and leave to rest in a warm place around an hour.
Preheat the oven at 220 C. Grease a loose base cake tin (about 20cm by 20cm), pour in the dough and smoothen. Brush generously with olive oil. Put in the hot oven until golden.
Remove from the cake tin and leave to cool. Serve with mint flavored tea.