Review: '13 Hours' Does Justice to Six American Heroes

Cortney O'Brien
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Posted: Jan 14, 2016 9:30 AM
Review: '13 Hours' Does Justice to Six American Heroes

From the early scenes of 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi, it’s clear terrorists are planning an attack on the U.S. consulate.

In other words, you won’t see or hear anything about a YouTube video.

Paramount Pictures and Director Michael Bay have teamed up to bring the incredible true story of six American heroes to the big screen in 13 Hours. These security contractors, audiences will see, are responsible for rescuing 36 people the night of September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, Libya, one of the most dangerous places on earth.

We lost four Americans in Benghazi, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, when Islamic militants attacked the consulate and nearby CIA annex. Three of the six Annex security team members on duty that night, Kris “Tanto” Paronto, Mark “Oz” Geist and John “Tig” Tiegen, share their account in the book “13 Hours,” written by Mitchell Zuckoff. In those pages, they describe not only the combat they faced, but the frustrating moments the CIA told them to stand down.

The Transformers director knew these verbal exchanges were just as important as the gunshots, and as such he gives us much more than explosions. Bay, wanting to offer an accurate, gritty, suspenseful onscreen account of the relentless 13 hours, powerfully captures the interchange between the soldiers and the CIA, allowing the audience to share the soldiers’ frustration as they helplessly watch the consulate be consumed by flames. As we all know, they didn’t wait for the CIA’s green light. After an infuriating 30-minute delay, the team goes to the consulate on their own with the intent of saving as many Americans as they can.

The story is justified by the cast. John Krasinski (“The Office”) spent four months on an intense workout schedule to gain muscle for the role of security contractor Jack Silva. In addition to the physical strength, Krasinski brings an emotional layer to the role in the scenes where he sends heartbreaking messages to the family he left at home.

James Badge Dale, Pablo Schreiber, Dominic Fumusa, Max Martini, and Krasinski’s “Office” costar David Denman convincingly round out the rest of the security team.

The actual firefight scenes are realistic enough to make the audience jump (one poor girl sitting in my row was in her seat for only half the film).

Interestingly, humor is scattered throughout the battle scenes. It is not done insensitively, though. If anything, it allowed the audience to understand how close the team was and how they kept each other encouraged through what was otherwise a terrifying ordeal.

With any realistic retelling comes a fair share of blood – and, in this case, bones. If you’re squeamish, prepare to look away near the finishing stages of the film when the soldiers begin to assess their injuries.

While most of the film is centered on the intense combat, first at the consulate and then at the CIA annex, some of the most impressionable scenes from 13 Hours are those that show the soldiers chatting with their loved ones. Silva, racked with guilt for leaving his wife and children at home to work in one of the most dangerous places on earth, talks to his family via video chat, playfully teasing his two young daughters before ensuring them daddy would be home soon.

The film is a powerful tribute to the men who fought and died that day and manages to cut through the sea of headlines and news reels that have consumed the mainstream media.

You may or may not end up sweating as much as the soldiers by the end of the film – but they will certainly have gained your respect.

13 Hours opens in theaters this Friday.