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13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

Coming Soon

Michael Bay is known for his over-the-top big budget action movies coming back time and time again with similar movies…often sequels. This means that he has staying power because the studios, namely Paramount Pictures, seem to happily greenlight his projects while backing up truckloads of cash to finance his works. To date, this seems like a great strategy since Bay’s movies typically end up grossing an insane amount of revenue worldwide. None of this would be possible if he wasn’t good at his job, regardless of what some might imply. Bay chose to dip his creative toes into the pool of real life events for a third time (Pearl Harbor, Pain & Gain) with his latest directing and producing work. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi gives a harrowing look events that took place in Libya a little over three years ago.
In 2012 on the anniversary of 9/11, an American diplomatic compound was overrun by local insurgents in a battle that spanned two separate locations and left many dead. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi follows events during the weeks leading up to this bloody battle all the way through its climatic end. Jack (John Krasinski) leaves his wife and kids behind in order to return to doing what he’s best at, working in hostile environments while protecting citizens and the interests of the United States. The hostile environment in this case is Benghazi, Libya where the current situation can go from calm to chaotic in an instant.
Jack joins his fellow brothers-in-arms serving as private security contractors tasked with keeping the onsite CIA members safe and sound. The balance of this six man team consists of Rone (James Badge Dale), Oz (Max Martini), Tanto (Pablo Schreiber), Tig (Dominic Fumusa) and Boon (David Denman). Jack and Boon go back a ways but it takes very little time for the six to bond. Aside from the obvious external threats, the team has to deal with a station chief (David Costabile) that sees little value in having this trigger happy group of brutes around. Since this is his last assignment he chooses to see the world through rose colored glasses. Sadly for him, those glasses are about to see the situation for what it really is when an American ambassador comes to town and militants see this as an opportunity to make a name for themselves. In 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi things go sideways in a hurry as the bullets begin to fly.
Bringing real situations to film, especially those that happened very recently, brings a certain type of weight with it that cannot be ignored. The acts of valor that these men and women display is absolutely remarkable. To run TOWARDS the gunfire and explosions, to put those that you don’t know or may not even like above your personal needs; these actions take a special breed of person. Michael Bay puts their story out there for the world to experience. Yes there is a book, 13 Hours written by Mitchell Zuckoff with the invaluable input from three members from the Annex Security Team (Oz, Tanto and Tig), but someone once said, “if you want to hide valuable information, put it in a book.” And yes, this also includes me, guilty as charged. The movie, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, will reach many others that have no idea that the book even exists. This story deserves to be told, needs to be told. Bay respected that, although not without inserting many of his trademark styles (slow-motion flybys, massive explosions, etc.). But that’s what audiences crave so you have to give them what they want.
The acting performances were very well done all the way around, the cast really gave it their all. Some of their energy and inspiration had to undoubtedly come from the fact that 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is indeed based on true events. Several of the actors were able to spend time with their real life counterparts, thus gaining valuable insight on how to approach their roles. Of the many people that helped make this story come to life, three of the men that lived it are the ones I choose to bring to the forefront. Those individuals would be Kris ‘Tanto’ Paronto portrayed by Pablo Schreiber, Mark ‘Oz’ Geist portrayed by Max Martini and John ‘Tig’ Tiegen portrayed by Dominic Fumusa. These onscreen personas lined perfectly with the men behind the story. I can say that with confidence upon having the opportunity and great pleasure of sitting down with these three amazing men. Below is my conversation with Oz, Tanto and Tig:
What was your experience like working with your acting doppelgangers?
[Tanto] “We made strong bonds with the actors that played us. I shared experiences with Pablo (Schreiber) about some of my views and my mindset. I even took him to the shooting range to show him how to properly shoot after those Navy SEALs that trained him screwed him up. We would Skype or talk on the phone during filming and we all remain close to this day. They did a great job respecting our story.”
[Tig] “Ditto”
What did you think of Michael Bay’s approach to the movie?
[Tanto] “He’s a bit underrated and he did a fantastic job capturing the spirit. He didn’t overdue it. He actually toned it down a bit to get the respect that we needed.”
[Tig] “I think 13 Hours might be the least “Michael Bay” type movie that he’s ever done.”
When the time comes to see the completed movie, will you watch it? Will you allow your families to watch it?
[Tig] “I probably won’t let my twins see it for a while since they’re so young.”
[Oz] “I’m looking forward to seeing it even though there will be some difficult and emotional parts. I’ll bring plenty of tissue for Tanto. My wife will probably have a more difficult time with it seeing what actually happened.”
[Tanto] “I’m going to see it when I have to see it and just get it over with. I know it’s going to be a very good movie because I’ve been impressed with what I’ve seen so far. It’s going to be therapeutic and will help get those demons out. Emotionally it’ll be hard but I do want to see it.”
Are there any residual hard feelings towards the way the US government handled this particular situation?
[Oz] “No, not from me. The government is the government and they’re going to do what they can with what they’ve got, just like us. If you go with that philosophy you’re not going to be disappointed.”
[Tanto] “Government, no but politicians, yeah. The only thing that really bothers me is that they tried to use as an agenda which is why we came out and did the book. The truth was completely torn and misrepresented. Even just the honoring of those that died was turning into a political event. I’m not a political person but even less so now from what I’ve seen from people in different positions just trying to benefit themselves.”
[Tig] “Ditto”
Being released in January, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi feels a bit misplaced. All of the elements are present that normally makes for a good summer season movie but that was not to be the case here. Hopefully the weather isn’t a huge deterrent in colder cities because it would be a shame for the action, drama, thriller to go unseen. The pace is fast and the view is unflinching from beginning to end as audiences become emotionally vested in the outcomes of each and every fascinating character. Check it out in theaters now and if you’re one of those reader types, here’s a convenient link to Amazon in case you want to read the book to learn more about this incident.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: Carl Wheeler

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