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Film / 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

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Welcome to Benghazi.

A 2016 film Based on a True Story about the 2012 Libya militant attack on a United States diplomatic outpost in Benghazi. Starring John Krasinski, Matt Letscher, and Pablo Schreiber and directed by Michael Bay.

Libya recently toppled an oppressive dictator and dozens of militia groups formed in the aftermath, with heavy weaponry wandering the streets after raiding the now open armories. A makeshift US embassy in Benghazi, officially only known as a Diplomatic Compound, remained the only political camp in the city and one of only two in the country. A mile from the Compound is a CIA Annex where agents work to organize the country and bring it under democratic rule. Providing security for the Annex is members of a group called the Global Response Staff or G.R.S., who are ex-military and their primary job involve being bodyguards.

On the night of September 11, 2012, days after noted US Ambassador Christopher Stevens came to the country, the Compound came under attack by a local militia, quickly overwhelming the local guards and understaffed security inside. The G.R.S. team are antsy to assist but they are technically not supposed to get involved, but after several false starts make their way to rescue survivors and bring them back to the Annex. Knowing the militia feel victorious over the Compound attack, they prepare for further assaults until they get reinforcements.

Tropes Used by the film:

  • Action Film, Quiet Drama Scene: Even made into a point. Silva says that while in action you can only think about what is ahead of you, and it isn't until they have downtime they start thinking about their family.
  • Anachronism Stew:
    • Tyrone's rifle, which is a customized AR-15 manufactured by Salient Arms was not available to the market until 2015, as noted by the IMFDB.
    • Tanto as well as the diplomat Sean Smith are seen playing two different Call of Duty games on their consoles during their downtimes; Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (2014) and Call of Duty: Ghosts (2013) respectively. Neither games were released at the time, their latest game then being Modern Warfare 3 (2011). To compound on that, the copy of Advanced Warfare used is played on a Playstation 4, which wasn't released or even announced until the following year.
  • America Saves the Day: It's primarily the efforts of the American GRS that resulted in the safe evacuation of any survivors rather than a complete slaughter.
  • An Arm and a Leg: Ultimately subverted. Oz gets his left arm badly injured in the final mortar strike, his forearm practically hanging off the rest of his body. It's revealed in the credits that after multiple surgeries he retained use of his left hand.
    • At another point, a young local comes screaming into the compound holding his blown-off hand, apparently from a mishandled explosive. He almost gets his head blown off too, until he reveals he's 17 Feb.
  • Arc Words: Joseph Campbell's quote "All the gods, all the heavens, all the hells, are within you."
  • Arms Dealer: The CIA team regularly meets up with some, usually buying back hi-tech equipment from the locals to either prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, or tracking them so they can just drone strike wherever they store their goods.
  • Arms Fair: As shown in the beginning, almost the entire country is turned into one following the civil war, with your average citizen casually selling military-grade weapons in an open market street.
  • Badass Bystander: Several Benghazi locals are seen taking arms against the hostile militia while assisting the Americans, but this makes it all the more harder for the protagonists to distinguish friend or foe.
  • Band of Brothers: The team has a good level of respect for each other from the start, but while waiting at the airport when it was all over they looked at each other and voiced their appreciation for the job they pulled off.
  • Batman Gambit: Near the beginning of the movie, Tyrone threatens a hostile checkpoint guard with a non-existent drone circling overhead, saying that it has seen all of their faces and that if anything happens to them, a drone strike awaits their homes and families. It works, so he and Jack manage to leave the situation unharmed.
  • Big Bad: The rogue Ansar al-Sharia militia are this to the protagonists.
  • Bittersweet Ending: As in Real Life, they were not able to save the Ambassador and many lives were lost in the event. But it would have been far worse had the GRS team not acted against orders and many lives were saved in the process.
  • Bling-Bling-BANG!: Two rather portly, but well dressed 17th Feb militiamen carry nickle-plated Type-56 AKs assist the Americans at the Embassy, each Firing One-Handed.
  • Blown Across the Room: Several insurgents seem to fly across the street just from being shot by mere 5.56 rounds.
  • Casual Danger Dialog: The GRS team engages in playful banter, even during escalating situations.
  • Captain Obvious: "Bob", the CIA Station Chief is this, due to giving out outdated information on a regular basis, often telling the team things they already knew at the time.
  • Chef of Iron: The CIA Annex cook takes part in the defense of the compound, and is 100% game to do so.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The operators swear and curse whenever they can.
  • Death from Above: By the third wave, the attackers have wised up to their currently failing strategy and settle on bombing the crap out of the Annex with mortars before moving in their troops. This actually nets them several American casualties since the beginning of their siege.
  • Dirty Coward: Most of the local security and allies for the Americans either abandon their posts or even possibly join the enemy whenever the attackers begin an assault on the Americans.
  • Don't Make Me Destroy You: During the siege of the Annex, Oz quietly whispers this to himself when an insurgent attempts to throw a pyrotechnic over the fence at the beginning of the second wave.
    Oz: No, no, no, no, what are you doing? No, don't do that. Fuck. *bang*
  • Elites Are More Glamorous: The GRS agents have background experience in various US Special Forces groups such as the Navy SEALs, Army Rangers and even Marines.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Demonstrated at the end of the movie, where the Benghazi residents wake up the next morning, horrified at the carnage left over from the night. Women and children alike wail over the corpses of what is assumed to be dead husbands and fathers.
  • Face–Heel Revolving Door: The 17-Feb militia or the random vigilantes seem to change allegiances by the seconds and as such, the American combatants have a hard time determining who is friend and who is foe throughout the battle.
  • Fatal Family Photo: Played with. It's mentioned that the entire team have family and kids back home, and even the day of the attacks most are having some sort of conversation with them. That said, Woods is notably placing a picture of his kids under his armor before the attack on the compound, and the charred remains of the photo are seen after the mortar strike.
  • Foregone Conclusion: Anyone who has followed the news back in 2012 would know the aftermath of the battle and who dies in the end, namely the two agents; Rone, Bub and the diplomats Sean and Chris.
  • Freak Out: Silva has a major one when he sees Tyrone's corpse unceremoniously thrown off the annex roof to save time they didn't have. He can only yell at the agent's face, who notably tells him to Get A Hold Of Yourself Man.
  • Gangsta Style: A rebel leader holds his sidearm sideways during a tense standoff during the MANPAD buy-back scene.
  • Grenade Launcher: When the GRS team take off to go save the Americans who are under attack at the compound, Tig brings a HK69A1 grenade launcher with him and puts it to good use when he uses it to take out an enemy Dushka.
  • Gunship Rescue: Regrettably averted, as several political and logistical factors prohibited any kind of air support to fly over Libyan airspace despite multiple pleas by the CIA personnel, a controversial topic still brought up to this day regarding the US military's supposed incompetency to respond quickly to the incident. Notably, a CIA agent was asking for at least a flyby, anything to make the locals second guess attacking the Annex. The best they had was a drone giving them a heads up on movement.
  • Hero of Another Story: Glen 'Bub' Doherty was one of the actual SEALs present in the rescue of Captain Phillips from Somali pirates back in the 2009 Maersk Alabama hijacking incident.
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Debates range on how confrontational the CIA annex chief was with the GRS team who wanted to immediately go and help the compound. The movie is based on a book taken by the soldiers themselves and the events are seen primarily from their viewpoint, so some degree of Unreliable Narrator and/or Designated Villain is involved here.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Many enemy fighters succumb to their reckless tactics from their own weapons.
    • During the embassy escape sequence, an insurgent fires an RPG at the DSS Agents car and misses, causing the debris to hit everyone, but the passenger of the attacking truck drops his lit molotov, igniting the vehicle and it's occupants.
    • Another insurgent with a RPG accidentally fires a rocket at his feet after getting shot in the head, killing several of his comrades.
  • Honor Before Reason: The GRS team is not the official first responders for the Compound, but they feel an obligation and know waiting any longer and they couldn't forgive themselves. They even mention they may never work a CIA job again.
  • Insistent Terminology: Bob makes it clear to Tyrone that the CIA agents are spies, while the GRS team are security guards.
    Bob: Your job is to keep us out of trouble, not get into it yourselves. ... You're hired help. Act the part.
  • Incredibly Lame Pun: When they mention "training SEALs," one comments "How'd you get them to balance the ball on their nose?"
  • Interservice Rivalry: The team has some playful remarks to each other based on what branch they came from.
  • Kill It with Fire: The militia's favored tactic against armoured targets in general. Also a possible contributing factor to Ambassador Steven's death. Smoke inhalation, not the fire was the alleged cause of his death.
  • Last Stand: As reports of an unidentified wave of over fifty armed vehicles heads towards the Annex, the surviving occupants of the station prepare for the worst...... and thankfully averted when it turns out to be their Libyan Army reinforcements, arriving in the nick of time.
  • Ludicrous Gibs: The movie doesn't shy away from blood and gore, such as the 17-Feb redshirts getting ripped apart by a enemy technical's DShK and grenades blowing limbs off.
  • Major Injury Underreaction: Due to shock Oz is playing with his mutilated arm and Silva tells him to knock it off.
  • Manly Tears: Silva cries at the end telling his wife over the phone about what happened and who died.
  • Meaningless Meaningful Words: Tanto is dismissive of the ambassador's "rah-rah speech about politics and progress."
  • Mildly Military: The biggest problem that the GRS and CIA have, both during the attack and in Lybia in general, is that all the militias dress in a combination of civilian clothing with varying amounts of tactical gear, which makes it impossible to tell who the good guys and bad guys are until they start shooting.
    • At one point, the team and some 17th Feb allies walk past a group of (uninvolved) armed locals who just ask if they're American and move on.
  • Molotov Cocktail: The militia employs many of these as improvised incendiaries during the embassy attack and notably the ambush on the DSS agent's car.
  • Molotov Truck: During the second attack on the Annex, the militants attempt to do this with a bus fitted with a large improvised bomb. Fortunately the GRS team notices this and immediately ventilates the bus long before they can even start their vehicle, blowing the explosives in the process.
  • Mundane Utility: The team use laser markers you can see with night vision goggles to help coordinate targets. When reinforcements get lost trying to get to the Annex, they "lasso" the sky with the lasers to help them get their bearings.
  • The Not Secret: The CIA Annex is supposed to be another covert diplomatic outpost but it's clear everyone knows what it really is, with a bunch of muscular blue-eyed Americans walking in and out.
  • Obstructive Bureaucrat: CIA Station Chief "Bob" is depicted as one, constantly denying the GRS operators from immediately assisting the besieged embassy, gives them outdated information and basically becomes a hindrance to the team until the fight comes to the Annex and Tyrone effectively takes over tactical operations.
  • One-Steve Limit: Listed as a problem. Silva is supposed to be playing Sona's husband in a CIA operation and they gave him the name Jack. He says that's a problem, since his real name IS Jack.
  • Police Are Useless: Local Libyan police constantly avoid the militias like the plague and are depicted as next to completely useless. Justified, as the post civil-war militias outgun and outnumber their authority by leaps and bounds.
  • Precision F-Strike: Near the end, when the chief is told to get in a car.
  • Private Military Contractors: Officially what the main characters are, although they are all former military themselves and work directly with the CIA.
  • Pyrrhic Victory: The militia is able to kill several Americans (including Ambassador Stevens) and drive them out of Benghazi, but at the cost of dozens of their own men.
  • Redshirt Army: The local February 17th Martyrs Brigade militia. They either run away, or die in droves against the tide of the enemy militia, and worse of all, some of them seem to be directly assisting the attackers instead.
  • Screw This, I'm Outta Here: The 17-Feb security detail as well as local law enforcement suspiciously gets the hell out of Dodge right before every attack.
  • The Siege: The Annex becomes this as the Americans hold out against waves and waves of attacking militia while waiting for reinforcements that may or may not be coming.
    Tanto: I've had just about enough of this 2012 Alamo bullshit. Can we get the fuck out of here now?
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Averted. The attackers at the embassy attempt to do this to the Ambassador's saferoom but fails due to the gates being specially reinforced. They then decide to just torch the house instead of forcing their way in again.
  • Spiritual Successor: 13 Hours was Michael Bay's attempt to create his own Black Hawk Down. How successful he was depends on the viewer. Film editor Pietro Scalia, who won an Oscar for Black Hawk Down, also edited 13 Hours.
  • Steel Eardrums: Averted. Oz improvises earplugs to avoid being deafened by Tyrone's M240B machine gun and later Tanto complains about hearing loss in one ear.
  • Stuff Blowing Up: Wouldn't be a Michael Bay movie without them.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: None of the locals seems particularly interested in a running gunfight the next street over or heavily armed men running around. Justified - the country is just coming off a long civil war after Gaddhafi's removal from power, so this is normal
    "Just another Tuesday night in Benghazi".
  • Was It Really Worth It?: Implied at the end with one of the militia leaders, who looks over the corpses of his fallen comrades and their loved ones weeping over their bodies. His expression makes it clear that he's not happy at the loss of so many men, even if the Americans have been forced to flee.
  • What Measure Is a Mook?: Subverted. Once the sun comes up and the Annex is evacuated, women and children are seen finding the bodies of the militia who were killed in the Annex assault and mourning over them.
  • Zerg Rush: The militia's basic tactic against the Embassy, which works well against the weak and demoralized local security forces, but doesn't when they go up against the prepared and badass CIA-defended Annex outpost.