It’s exciting to see Shyamalan on such confident footing once more, all these years later.
With “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi,” Michael Bay has done for the attack on Benghazi and those who fought and died there what he did for the attack on Pearl Harbor in “Pearl Harbor”—reduce the seriousness of the event and the sacrifices made into another exercise of the kind of slick, soulless excess that is virtually indistinguishable, both stylistically and dramatically, from the rest of his filmography.
Based on the best-selling account by Mitchell Zuckoff (with the participation of five of the survivors of the attack), the film begins as former Navy SEAL Jack Silva (John Krasinski) arrives in Benghazi to work as a private consultant on the security detail for a CIA outpost alongside old friend Tyrone “Rone” Woods (James Badge Dale). The job isn’t ideal—Benghazi is one of the most dangerous places in the world; he is separated from his wife and young daughters; and all the official CIA people that he is working under, especially outpost chief Bob (David Costabile), are constantly reminding all the security guys that they are the ones doing the important work. It brings in more money than staying at home and working as a real estate agent.
In early September 2012, U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens (Matt Letscher) arrives and insists on staying at the diplomatic compound during his visit. While inspecting the premises before the arrival of Ambassador Stevens, Silva, Rone and their fellow security consultants realize instantly that the protection it offers is completely inadequate. They're further appalled when they see that a once-secret meeting has been made into a public affair, alerting everyone in the dangerously unstable region to the presence of Stevens. Nevertheless, the CIA guys and the security patrol at the diplomatic compound poo-poo their warnings and insist that they have everything under control.
On September 11, the compound, with Stevens inside, is attacked by a heavily-armed mob that quickly storms the building and even sets it on fire in an attempt to smoke the ambassador out. From their vantage point at the CIA outpost a mile or so away, Silva, Rone and four other security men on hand—Kris “Tanto” Paronto (Pablo Schreiber), Dave “Boon” Benton (David Denman), John “Tig” Tiegan (Dominic Fumusa) and Mark “Oz” Geist (Max Martini)—can see what is going down and are prepared to rush over and assist, but the main CIA guy gives them a direct order to stand down. He continues to repeat that order until the six of them decide to defy it and head out to the compound without authorization. Although they fend off waves of attackers and manage to pull a couple of people out, they are unable to find Stevens in the burning building before returning to their base. It is then that the CIA base becomes the new focus of attack and the guys, along with a handful of others, are forced to single-handedly defend the compound and those inside while calls for air support are ignored and a potential rescue force is stuck on the tarmac in Tripoli mired in red tape.