13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

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13 Hours:
The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
13 Hours poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Bay
Produced by
Screenplay byChuck Hogan
Based on13 Hours
by Mitchell Zuckoff
Music byLorne Balfe
CinematographyDion Beebe
Edited by
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • January 12, 2016 (2016-01-12) (AT&T Stadium)
  • January 15, 2016 (2016-01-15) (United States)
Running time
144 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$50 million[2]
Box office$69.4 million[2]

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (also known simply as 13 Hours) is a 2016 American action thriller film[3][4][5] directed and produced by Michael Bay and written by Chuck Hogan, based on Mitchell Zuckoff's 2014 book of the same name. The film follows six members of Annex Security Team who fought to defend the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya after waves of attacks by militants on September 11, 2012. The film stars James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, and Max Martini.

Filming began on April 27, 2015 in Malta and Morocco. Known colloquially as "the Benghazi movie",[6] the film was released on January 15, 2016, by Paramount Pictures. Upon release, 13 Hours received generally mixed reviews from critics and grossed just $69 million worldwide against a budget of $50 million, becoming Bay's lowest-grossing film to date.

The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Mixing at the 89th Academy Awards.[7]


In 2012, Benghazi, Libya is named one of the most dangerous places in the world, and countries have pulled their diplomatic offices out of the country in fear of an attack by militants. The United States, however, still has a diplomatic compound (not an official consulate) open in the city. Less than a mile away is a CIA outpost called "The Annex", which is protected by a team of private military contractors from Global Response Staff (GRS). New to the detail is Jack Silva, who arrives in Benghazi and is picked up by Tyrone "Rone" Woods, commander of the GRS team and a personal friend of Silva. Arriving at the Annex, Silva is introduced to the rest of the GRS team and the CIA Chief of Station, who constantly gives the team strict reminders to never engage the citizens.

Prior to the U.S. Ambassador's arrival, the GRS team members visit the Special Mission, the location where the Ambassador will be staying. They review the location and warn its Diplomatic Security (DS) agents about the risk of minimal security arrangements and the high probability of a surprise attack due its volatile circumstances. The U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens arrives in Benghazi to maintain diplomatic connections amidst the political and social chaos, with limited protection from five Diplomatic Security (DS) agents, principally, Scott Wickland and Dave Ubben, along with guards hired from the local February 17th Martyrs Brigade militia, nicknamed "17-Feb". On the morning of the eleventh anniversary of the September 11 attacks, Stevens notices suspicious men taking pictures of the compound and notifies his security detail. Back at the Annex, Silva finds out that his wife is pregnant.

That night, a group of militants from Ansar al-Sharia assault the compound. The 17-Feb guards quickly surrender their posts, allowing the attackers easy access to the Special Mission compound. Wickland takes Stevens and Smith, an IT specialist, into the safe room. Unable to breach the safe room, the attackers set the building on fire hoping to burn the men out. Wickland is able to escape but loses both Stevens and Smith. At the Annex, the GRS team desperately wants to go to the compound to help, but the Chief refuses, fearing that the team's departure would expose the Annex. However, the team dispatches to the compound and meets up with the DS agents. Silva and Woods go into the building to try to find Stevens and Smith, but are only able to find Smith's body. After an intense firefight inside the compound against the militants, The DS team retreats; but after Wickland goes in the wrong direction, they are followed by militants on their way back to the Annex. Later, the GRS team also retreats to the Annex.

Knowing an attack by the militants is imminent, the CIA staff of the Annex makes several desperate calls for help. The only help they can get is from Glen "Bub" Doherty, a GRS officer in Tripoli, who forms a team including two Delta operators that fly to Benghazi after several delays. Meanwhile, the GRS team fends off the militants as they try to breach the Annex perimeter. After repelling the largest attack wave, the Annex receives word from ISR that help is en route.

The Tripoli GRS reinforcements arrive and begin preparing the CIA and DS staff to depart for the airport. The militants launch a mortar attack in which Ubben and Geist are wounded; Geist's left arm is partially severed. Woods rushes to aid Geist and is killed by another mortar round. Doherty is also killed when a third mortar detonates directly in front of him.

With the GRS team compromised, and the Annex now vulnerable, the remaining GRS operators watch as a convoy of vehicles rolls toward the Annex. Fearing the worst, the operators prepare to make a final stand, until it is revealed that the convoy is an element of the Libya Shield Force militia escorting the GRS reinforcements. They also find out that Stevens was found behind the compound, but was pronounced dead at the hospital.

At the airport, the CIA staff and the wounded Geist board the plane to Tripoli while the remainder of the GRS team waits for the next plane with the bodies of Stevens, Smith, Woods and Doherty. Closing titles reveal that all of the surviving members of the Annex security team received contractor medals in a private ceremony and have since retired from the GRS team and live with their families (Geist was able to save his arm after several surgeries).




On February 10, 2014, it was announced that Paramount Pictures was in talks with 3 Arts Entertainment to acquire the film rights to the book 13 Hours, written by Mitchell Zuckoff, with Erwin Stoff to produce.[17] Chuck Hogan was set to adapt the book, based on the true events of the Benghazi attack by militants on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, on the evening of September 11, 2012.[17] The film would focus on six members of a security team that fought to defend the Americans stationed there.[17] On October 29, 2014, Michael Bay was set to direct and produce the thriller.[18]


On January 14, 2015, John Krasinski was cast in the film, to play one of the lead roles, a former US Navy SEAL.[9] On February 3, Pablo Schreiber also signed on to star in the film, playing Kris "Tanto" Paronto, one of the six-man security team.[13] On February 6, James Badge Dale was set to star, as the leader of the security team.[8] Max Martini was cast as another member of the security team on February 17, 2015.[11] David Denman signed on to star in the film on March 3, 2015, playing Boon, an elite sniper.[14] On March 5, 2015, THR reported that Dominic Fumusa also signed on, to play John "Tig" Tiegen, one of the members of the security team, who is also a former Marine with weapons expertise.[12] Freddie Stroma was added to the cast on March 17, 2015 to play the role of an undercover CIA officer in Libya.[16] On May 7, 2015, Toby Stephens was set to play Glen "Bub" Doherty, another of the security team members.[19]


Principal photography began on April 27, 2015 in Malta and Morocco.[14][20] A large film set was built in March 2015 in Ta' Qali, Malta.[21]


On June 30, 2015, Paramount announced that the new title would be 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, and set the film to be released on January 15, 2016, on the MLK Holiday weekend.[22] The film premiered on January 12, 2016, at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas,[23] benefitting the Shadow Warriors Project, which supports private military security personnel and other groups.[23]

Unusually for a major American film, the film was given only a limited release in Canada during its American wide opening weekend, playing in select theatres in Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa. The film expanded to a wide release in Canadian theatres the following weekend, January 22–24.[24][25]

Paramount specifically marketed the film to conservatives,[26][27] in a method similar to previous films Lone Survivor and American Sniper, both of which had beaten box office expectations.[28] This included screening the film for key Republican Party figures in order to generate endorsement quotations.[29]

Home media[edit]

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi was released on DVD and Blu-ray on June 7, 2016. Likely due to a boost from the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, the film made $40 million in DVD and Blu-ray sales by August 2016.[30][31]

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on June 11 2019.[32]


Box office[edit]

13 Hours grossed $52.9 million in North America and $16.5 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $69.4 million, against a production budget of $50 million,[2] making it Michael Bay's lowest-grossing directorial film to date.[33]

The film was projected to earn around $20 million in its four-day Martin Luther King weekend debut. It faced competition from fellow newcomer Ride Along 2, as well as holdovers The Revenant and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.[34] Other films in a similar vein that had opened on the MLK weekend in previous years, American Sniper ($107.2 million in 2015) and Lone Survivor ($37.8 million in 2014), found success, although they had faced weaker competition, and were considered less politically divisive.[35] However, The Hollywood Reporter noted that the film could outperform expectations if it was buoyed by waves of patriotism.[35] The film made $900,000 from 1,995 theaters during its Thursday previews and $16.2 million in its opening weekend, finishing fourth at the box office.[36]

Critical response[edit]

13 Hours received mixed reviews from critics, though some viewed it as a welcomed tame effort from Michael Bay.[37][38][39][40][41] On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 51% based on 218 reviews, with an average rating of 5.5/10 against an audience approval rating of 82%. The site's consensus reads, "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is a comparatively mature and restrained effort from Michael Bay, albeit one that can't quite boast the impact its fact-based story deserves."[42] On Metacritic the film has a score of 48 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[43] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[44][36]

Soren Andersen, writing for The Seattle Times, gave the film 3 stars out of 4, criticizing the lack of distinctive characters but ultimately summarizing 13 Hours as "engrossing" and "a ground-level depiction of heroism in the midst of the fog of war".[45] Richard Roeper similarly praised 13 Hours in his review for the Chicago Sun-Times. Although he lamented the script, Roeper found the film to be a "solid action thriller with well-choreographed battle sequences and strong work from the ensemble cast".[46] Like Roeper's review, New York Daily News' Joe Dziemianowicz was less receptive towards the script, but applauded the film's focus on the real-life attack, summarizing: "War is gritty here, not glamorous... [Michael Bay] delivers a gripping, harrowing, and heartfelt film."[47]

In a mixed review, Inkoo Kang of TheWrap praised 13 Hours for its action scenes, but panned Bay's direction as "myopic". She writes, "13 Hours is the rare Michael Bay movie that wasn't made with teenage boys in mind. But that doesn't make his latest any less callously juvenile."[48] Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press was critical of the film's direction and cinematography, and found the screenplay to be confusing.[49] Similarly, The Economist described the film as "a sleek, poorly scripted and largely meaningless film".[50]

Libyan response[edit]

The film caused controversy in Libya.[51] Many Libyans believed it ignored the contributions of local people who helped save the US ambassador.[52] Libya's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Salah Belnaba, denounced the film's portrayal of the Libyan people and described it as "fanatical and ignorant."[53] Libya's Culture and Information Minister, Omar Gawaari, also criticized the film saying: "the movie shows the US contractors who actually failed to secure the ambassador [...] as heroes", adding that Michael Bay "turned America's failure to protect its own citizens in a fragile state into a typical action movie all about American heroism".[52][53][54]


At the 89th Academy Awards, 13 Hours received a nomination for Best Sound Mixing.[55] However, Greg P. Russell (one of the four nominees from the film) had his nomination rescinded when it was discovered that he had contacted voters for the award by telephone in violation of campaigning regulations.[7]

Historical accuracy[edit]

The film's historical accuracy has been disputed. In the film's most controversial scene, the CIA chief in Benghazi (identified only as "Bob") tells the military contractors there, who seek permission to go defend the embassy, to "stand down", thus denying them permission. The real-life CIA chief stated that there was no stand-down order.[56] His statement was echoed by the bipartisan Senate Intelligence Committee's finding that there was "no evidence of intentional delay or obstruction by the Chief of Base or any other party".[57] However, no help was sent, even though officials at the highest levels found out about the attack within the first few hours out of the 13. Also, National Review commentator David French argues that the Senate committee cited above found plenty of evidence of the "stand down" order in the form of personal testimony from multiple witnesses. It just chose to rule that the contrary testimony outweighed it.[58]

Kris "Tanto" Paronto, a CIA contractor who was involved in action during the event said, "We were told to 'stand down'. Those words were used verbatim—100 percent. If the truth of it affects someone's political career? Well, I'm sorry. It happens."[59] The CIA base chief portrayed in the film has directly contradicted Paronto's claims, saying "There never was a stand-down order... At no time did I ever second-guess that the team would depart."[60]

Also disputed is the film's portrayal that air support was denied. A House Armed Services Committee report found that air support was unavailable, or it would have arrived too late to make a difference.[50] French defended the film's references to air support, writing that even if resources could not have been flown in during the time available, this would itself be "scandalous", given Libya's known instability.[58] In July 2016, the Republican-led House Select Committee on Benghazi released its report that included numerous witnesses indicating that U.S. military help was available, but not called upon. The report indicated the Department of Defense would not provide the requested list of military assets that were available that night.[61]

Some of the vehicles used in the film are models from later years, especially the Mercedes-Benz G-Class (model year 2013) and the Mercedes-Benz C-Class (W205) (model year 2015) which did not exist when the attacks happened in 2012, only known to be original prototypes.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI (15)". British Board of Film Classification. January 19, 2016. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi (2016)". Box Office Mojo. IMDb. Retrieved June 3, 2017.
  3. ^ "The Trailer For Benghazi Film '13 Hours' Is Here, And It Looks Seriously Intense". HuffPost.
  4. ^ "Michael Bay explores Benghazi attack in action film '13 Hours'". WTOP.com.
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  6. ^ Schilling, Dave (January 15, 2016). "13 Hours: Michael Bay's Benghazi movie and 'the American Way'". The Guardian. Retrieved April 10, 2018.
  7. ^ a b Calvario, Liz (February 25, 2017). "Academy Rescinds Sound Mixing Nomination for Greg P. Russell of '13 Hours'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 25, 2017.
  8. ^ a b Fleming Jr, Mike (February 6, 2015). "James Badge Dale Lands Lead In Michael Bay Benghazi Project '13 Hours'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  9. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (January 14, 2015). "John Krasinski to Star in Michael Bay's Benghazi Movie '13 Hours'". variety.com. Retrieved January 15, 2015.
  10. ^ "Benghazi as Zombieland". National Review. January 15, 2016.
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  12. ^ a b Ford, Rebecca (March 5, 2015). "Michael Bay's '13 Hours' Adds 'Nurse Jackie' Actor Dominic Fumusa (Exclusive)". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (February 3, 2015). "'Orange is the New Black' Actor Pablo Schreiber Joins Michael Bay's '13 Hours' (EXCLUSIVE)". variety.com. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  14. ^ a b c Kit, Borys (March 3, 2015). "Michael Bay's '13 Hours' Finds Its Sniper in 'The Office' Actor (Exclusive)". hollywoodreporter.com. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  15. ^ "Matt Letscher". IMDB.
  16. ^ a b Pedersen, Erik (March 17, 2015). "Freddie Stroma Has '13 Hours'; Christopher Gorham Lands Lead In 'Po'; 'Exeter' Set For DirecTV Bow". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  17. ^ a b c Fleming, Mike, Jr. (February 10, 2014). "Paramount In Talks For Benghazi Attack Film Based On Book By Survivors". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  18. ^ Kit, Borys (October 29, 2014). "Michael Bay in Talks to Direct Benghazi Movie '13 Hours' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
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  22. ^ A. Lincoln, Ross (June 30, 2015). "Paramount's '13 Hours' Benghazi Drama Confirmed For MLK Weekend 2016". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  23. ^ a b Cieplyjan, Michael (January 5, 2016). "'13 Hours' Gives Benghazi Attack Cinematic Treatment". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  24. ^ "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi". Tribute.ca.
  25. ^ "New to Theatres This Weekend: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Ride Along 2, Norm of the North – Film Junk".
  26. ^ Pulver, Andrew (January 15, 2016), "Benghazi attack film 13 Hours is marketed to conservative audiences", The Guardian, retrieved January 24, 2016
  27. ^ Pazienza, Chez (January 17, 2016). "Quote of the Day: Paramount Pictures Is Sad You Didn't See "13 Hours" Because You're Too Partisan". The Daily Banter. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  28. ^ Pazienza, Chez (January 6, 2016). "The Cynical Marketing of "13 Hours" Is Already Giving Conservatives a Benghazigasm". The Daily Banter. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  29. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 17, 2016). "'13 Hours' Opens Lower Than Expected; Being Politicized Didn't Help". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  30. ^ "Michael Bay's '13 Hours' gets huge sales boost as election nears". Fox News. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  31. ^ "Michael Bay's Benghazi Film Gets Trump Bump in Home Video".
  32. ^ 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi 4K Blu-ray, retrieved April 23, 2019
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  34. ^ Faughnder, Ryan (January 13, 2016). "'Ride Along 2' is likely to take over No. 1 spot at box office this weekend". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  35. ^ a b McClintock, Pamela (January 12, 2016). "Box-Office Preview: Michael Bay's Benghazi Movie '13 Hours' Could Be Politically Divisive". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 13, 2016.
  36. ^ a b "'Ride Along 2' & 'Revenant' Pushing 'Star Wars' To 3rd Place Over 4-Day MLK Holiday; Kevin Hart-Ice Cube Sequel Eyes $40.2M". deadline.com.
  37. ^ Guzmán, Rafer. "'13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi' review: Dramatized look at the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack". Newsday.
  38. ^ Jorgenson, Todd (January 16, 2016). "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi". Cinemalogue.com. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  39. ^ "Movie Review: '13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi' – The Young Folks". The Young Folks.
  40. ^ "Fat Guys at the Movies - '13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi' Movie Review". Fat Guys at the Movies.
  41. ^ "Mr. Movie". tri-cityherald.
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  44. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com – via Twitter.
  45. ^ Andersen, Soren (January 14, 2016). "13 Hours: a gripping look at what happened in Benghazi". Seattle Times. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  46. ^ Richard Roeper (January 14, 2016). "'13 HOURS: THE SECRET SOLDIERS OF BENGHAZI': MICHAEL BAY KEEPS FOCUS ON FIGHT AND FIGHTERS". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  47. ^ Dziemianowicz, Joe (January 13, 2016). "Movie review: Michael Bay's '13 Hours' is a gripping Benghazi story with a ripped John Krasinski". New York Daily News. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  48. ^ Kang, Inkoo (January 13, 2016). "'13 Hours' Review: Michael Bay's Benghazi Tale Has Way More Bullets Than Brains". TheWrap. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  49. ^ Bahr, Lindsey (January 14, 2016). "Review: '13 Hours' Is Thrilling, but Too Video Game-Like". ABC News.
  50. ^ a b M.S.R. (January 18, 2016). "Could a Hollywood film about Benghazi damage Clinton?". The Economist. Retrieved January 19, 2016.
  51. ^ Hollywood Benghazi film sparks controversy inside Libya New York Post
  52. ^ a b Angry Libyans slam Michael Bay's Benghazi attack thriller The Guardian
  53. ^ a b Hollywood Benghazi film sparking anger inside Libya CBS News
  54. ^ فيلم حول الهجوم على القنصلية الأمريكية في بنغازي يثير جدلا داخل ليبيا BBC
  55. ^ "La La Land equals record for most Oscar nominations". The Guardian. January 24, 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  56. ^ Siemaszko, Corky. "Former Benghazi CIA Chief Slams '13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi'". NBC News. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  57. ^ Beauchamp, Zack (January 15, 2016). "Michael Bay's 13 Hours promotes some of the worst Benghazi conspiracy theories". Vox. Retrieved January 17, 2016.
  58. ^ a b French, David (January 15, 2016). "13 Hours: Of Course There's Evidence of a 'Stand-Down Order' in Benghazi". National Review.
  59. ^ "New Benghazi movie reignites 'stand-down' order debate". POLITICO. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  60. ^ Daly, Matthew (January 20, 2016). "AP FACT CHECK: Benghazi movie misstates some facts". WTOP (Associated Press). Archived from the original on April 15, 2016. Retrieved May 2, 2016.
  61. ^ "Select Committee on Benghazi Releases Proposed Report | Select Committee on Benghazi". Benghazi.house.gov. Archived from the original on October 13, 2016. Retrieved October 14, 2016.

External links[edit]