Quality: This score indicates entertainment value.
0 stars is horrible, while 5 stars is spectacular.
Political: This score addresses political messaging.
0 stars is aggressively anti-Conservative, while 5 stars is highly pro-Conservative. 3 stars is apolitical.
Moral/Religious (M/R): This score addresses moral and religious messaging.
0 stars is either intensely immoral or all-out, needless assault on Christianity. 5 stars is either great moral messaging or highly pro-Christian. 3 stars is inoffensive either way.
Quality – 2.5 stars, Political – 4 stars, M/R – 3 stars
Though “13 Hours” avoids politics like the plague, I won’t. No, my chief concern isn’t Republican vs. Democrat, but rather the main element missing from almost every debate regarding our war against Radical Islam: Speed. This movie, while too chaotic early on and too long overall, conveys the direct cost in lives when our protectors are hindered by bureaucrats.
For those who don’t understand Muslim terrorists, “13 Hours” makes it crystal clear: This enemy comes from everywhere, has great numbers, hits with lightning speed, and is religiously driven to kill. Because of this, we must be well-equipped and trained, but above all, we must be fast.
So before discussing the movie itself, let me apply the lone political message of “13 Hours” with three statements:
1. When designing rules of engagement that endlessly restrain our soldiers against unrestrained enemies, we create immense hesitation and doubt. That costs lives.
Our central character is Jack (a superbly cast John Krasinski), who arrives in Benghazi to join a team of CIA contractors (they’re called “Global Response Staff”—GRS) tasked with protecting diplomats and CIA personnel. Introducing him to the area is longtime friend Tyrone "Rone" Woods (James Badge Dale), who drives him through chaotic streets until they’re trapped in a local shootout. Welcome to Benghazi, pal.
Other members of the bearded, muscly team are Kris "Tanto" Paronto (Pablo Schreiber), Dave "Boon" Benton (David Denman), and John "Tig" Tiegen (Dominic Fumusa). These are battle-worn former Navy Seals and Marines, doing their jobs in awful settings without regard for political correctness. All expert marksmen, they are living weapons, but weapons with hearts. Much of their downtime is spent conversing with wives and kids via Skype and cellphones.
Perhaps the finest performance is put forth by David Costabile, who plays “Bob,” the CIA Chief at Benghazi. Bob is the bad guy—not because he’s evil, but rather because this is his last post before retirement, and he wants to delay any actions that might blemish his diplomatic career. Because of his indecisiveness, our heroes are held back a fateful 25 minutes while the US Embassy is stormed by Islamic killers.
Trapped at the Embassy is Ambassador Chris Stevens (played with well-meaning naiveté by Matt Letscher), who along with Information Officer Sean Smith, dies from smoke inhalation within an inferno while our heroes are told to “Stand down!” They eventually attempt rescue against Bob’s orders, but the lack of speed proves fatal.
Worse yet, the terrorists aren’t done. After torching diplomats, they lay siege to the CIA Annex itself, creating an Alamo-like experience where our outgunned heroes must hold off waves of ghostly figures approaching through the weeds, showering the Annex with RPG’s and bullets. It’s exhausting and infuriating, as the CIA personnel huddling below keep begging for air support that never comes. For whatever reason, the American military machine is holding off.
Let me close with some “13 Hours” advice to all politicians. Have your debates. Talk about our rights. Talk about our place in the world. Unraveling hard questions, do your best to ensure our liberties are still worth defending. But understand, we face a savage enemy that holds no respect for any of these things, and the greatest weapon against them is speed. So whatever you propose, if speed isn’t the central ingredient, your policies will kill Americans.
When discussing war, politicians see chess pieces, and chess is a slow game. In reality, war is about monsters against real people with families, not endless measuring of each move. No agency or military leader should be given complete control, as that breeds corruption. But at some point, we must trust those real people whom we ask to defend us.
And if Benghazi has taught us anything, we must give that trust…with speed.