Warning: Spoilers

I can’t call myself an aficionado of action flicks, so I’m not sure where where 13 Hours falls within that genre.  I did find the movie intense, the lead parts were masterfully played and it offered plenty of food for thought.

It might be red meat for the conservative base, but in terms of pure propaganda value, in terms of effect on those who don’t study politics closely, 13 Hours falls short.

The movie follows six veterans, now contractors, providing security for the CIA outpost in war-torn, terrorist-infested Libyan town of Benghazi.  On one hand we have bravery, camaraderie and leadership of men like Jack Silva and Tyrone Woods, played by John Krasinski and James Badge Dale respectively, and on the other –stupidity and indifference bordering on betrayal everywhere they turn.  The American team was abandoned by the key local allies, denied adequate resources by its own country and when they needed rescue, help was too slow to come — you know the story.

Tyrone Woods (James Badge Dale)

Tyrone Woods (James Badge Dale)

The blame for the death of four Americans in the hands of the terrorists is never explicitly put on the the highest echelons of government.  Apart from the single sentence “The POTUS is briefed” superimposed over the picture of the White House, nothing assigns the responsibility for the death of four Americans to the president.  Something tells me if it was a Bush White House, the filmmakers would find a way to make it abundantly clear where the buck stops.

Although Ms. Clinton’s name is never uttered, the oil industry lobbyist Sona Jilliani (Alexia Barlier) initially established herself as a Hillary archetype.  The character is a blue-eyed, Harvard-educated resident of the CIA compound, always on the verge of striking some sort of a deal and always berating the men who risk their lives to protect hers.  But Jillani redeems herself towards the end and, in any event, the Hillary connection, if intended, is in no way obvious to a mainstream viewer.  Because 13 Hours steers clear of partisan politics, it is a better, much less heavy-handed film than it would otherwise had been.

Sona Jilliani (Alexia Barlier)

Sona Jilliani (Alexia Barlier)

There is, in Russian tradition, the “bad boyars/good tzar” belief system.  The boyars, or medieval nobility, are deemed responsible for everything that is wrong with people’s lives but the tzar, sitting at the top of the power pyramid, is absolved of guilt.  This explains most of everything about Russia including the current Stalin vogue.

This is a different time, different country, but in 13 Hours, the Security Team, again and again, is shunned by, for the lack of a better term, the mid-level management.  A low information person will probably walk out of the movie placing most of the blame on the chain of command.

Much of the media debate centers on one particular “boyar”, the CIA agent who gave, the Security Team says, the stand down order to Tyrone Woods, the order he eventually disobeyed going ahead with the consulate rescue mission.  Now the CIA says no such order was issued –and the story made headlines on Drudge last weekend.  Personally, I believe the Security Team because a) character and b) otherwise the whole story makes little sense.

A more important story was new document came to light at about the same time; it points to the culpability of Barack Obama and the State Department.  Turns out, Benghazi rescue mission was interrupted because proper clearance was never obtained.

To be sure there is enough blame to go around.

Plenty of disillusionment too.  And it’s pretty clear that, in the motion picture at least, for Silva and Woods the disillusionment crept in long before the men got to Benghazi.  We have the finest men fighting for our country, and we don’t have their backs.  Something to think about this November.


The author writes the blog Sitting on the Edge of the Sandbox, Biting My Tongue and occasionally posts at Legal Insurrection. She is an American citizen and a native of Kharkov, a Russian-speaking city in what was, when she was growing up, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic.