Full disclosure: There is no doubt in my mind that the Obama Administration, including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, turned a dangerous situation at Benghazi into a catastrophic one. Given the release of 13 Hours in a presidential election year, I entered the theater expecting it to see more about the Administration’s reaction and the subsequent cover-up.
That isn’t the focus of 13 Hours. The focus is on 6 men hired to protect a CIA outpost in Benghazi. I consider them heroes, for their intelligence, their determination to do what’s right, and their courage in the face of overwhelming odds. By the time the movie was halfway through I was heavily invested in them, and my heart was pounding. If I ever get into such a situation, I want guys like that on my side.
But: The movie is told from the point of view of those men, without benefit of the knowledge that has since come to light. There are only a few references to the State Department (begged for help) and to the President (briefed). There was a brief shot of a military drone positioned to watch the Benghazi situation: the fact that the U.S. military and administration could see events in real time makes it even more appalling to me that the U.S. sent no assistance. I left the theater exhausted from the tension, furious that this situation was allowed to develop, and even more furious that it was allowed to play out with no help from America to evacuate American personnel.
If you walk into the theater expecting an explicit condemnation of the Obama Administration, you’ll be disappointed as well as exhausted. If you walk into it hoping to see men doing their best under extraordinarily difficult conditions, you might leave satisfied as well as exhausted.