13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi – What You Need To Know
For most of the last decade, Michael Bay's career as a director has largely revolved around the Transformers franchise, churning out no fewer than four films featuring the shape-shifting robots in the last ten years (with a fifth on the way in 2017), the only exception until now being 2013's Pain & Gain, a sort of black comedy starring Mark Wahlberg and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson as two muscle-headed bodybuilders caught up in a botched kidnapping.
Last year however he turned his attention to the real-life story of a group of soldiers-for-hire tasked with protecting the American embassy in Libya's second largest city at a time when the country was in political disarray following the death of its deposed leader Muammar Gaddafi. It's the first time Bay has tackled this kind of historical subject matter since 2001's Pearl Harbour and the film - much like the incident that inspired Mitchell Zuckoff's book, on which the film is based - has caused a certain amount of political controversy in the U.S.
On Monday the film arrives in stores on DVD & Blu-ray. Here's everything you need to know about 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi...
Who's in it?
This isn't a film packed with A-listers, but it does boast a solid ensemble cast that includes Rubicon's James Badge Gale, The Office star John Krasinski, Parenthood's David Denman, Falco's Alexia Barlier and Orange Is The New Black star Pablo Schreiber.
What's the plot?
It's less than a year after the death of Gaddafi and the climate in Libya is extremely volatile, so much so that most foreign nations have by now pulled their ambassadors out of the country, but the U.S. decides to maintain their embassy in Benghazi, situated on a military compound protected by a group of private contractors working for the CIA called Global Response Staff. The GRS team are all former special forces, Navy Seals or otherwise battle-hardened soldiers, assisted in the task of guarding the compound by some local soldiers from a group known as the 17th Feb Militia.
On September 11th 2012 a group of Islamic militants attack the compound, where the local militia quickly abandon their posts allowing the attackers access to the embassy. The ambassador and several other members of the U.S. diplomatic entourage are trapped inside and despite the GRS wanting to help the small diplomatic security team defend the compound, the CIA chief refuses to give them the order to do so, insisting that they should not engage with any of the local militia groups or factions.
Ignoring this, the GRS team deploy to the compound and engage in a firefight with the attackers, hoping to hold them off until reinforcements arrive. The ambassador and three others are found dead, but the team must dig in to hold off the attackers long enough for the rest of the diplomatic staff to be rescued.
Does it deliver?
Michael Bay does have a tendency to polarise opinion but you have to give him some credit for tackling such a politically sensitive subject, especially so soon after the incident it is based on. The director insists he isn't making any kind of political statement with 13 Hours, but that hasn't stopped the Republican party in the U.S. trying to use the film as a brickbat to bash Obama's administration with. Still, Bay says this is just about “what happened on the ground” and that's broadly true, other than the usual 'little guy outsmarts top brass' trope that appears in nearly all of Bay's films.
In any case, if you're looking for a movie with some kind of political weight then a Michael Bay film probably isn't the place to find it, but if you're an armed forces type with an understanding of how operations like these work, then you'll probably find plenty to like about 13 Hours. If you're not a Bay fan, this probably won't change your mind, but if you enjoy the kind of fast-paced action that Bay specialises in then this will be right up your street.