13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi

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13 Hours:
The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi
A soldier running from an explosion, fire and dirt in the air. Text is overlaid in large white block letters "When everything went wrong six men had the courage to do what was right"
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMichael Bay
Screenplay byChuck Hogan
Based on13 Hours
by Mitchell Zuckoff
Produced by
CinematographyDion Beebe
Edited by
Music byLorne Balfe
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • 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 biographical action thriller war 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, Pablo Schreiber, Max Martini, David Denman and Dominic Fumusa with supporting roles by Toby Stephens, Alexia Barlier and David Costabile.

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 grossed $69 million worldwide against a production budget of $50 million (not including advertising and distribution), becoming one of Bay's lowest grossing films, and received mixed reviews from critics. While the film was praised for its acting performances, action sequences, and dark tone, the script was criticized for its historical liberties. Bay's direction also received a mixed response, with many criticizing his emphasis on over-the-top action, but some also noting it as one of his most mature and grounded films.[7][8]

The film received an Oscar nomination for Best Sound Mixing at the 89th Academy Awards.[9]


In 2012, Benghazi in 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 still has a diplomatic compound, not an official consulate, open in the city. Less than a mile away is a top secret CIA base, "the Annex," which is protected by a team of private military contractors from Global Response Staff (GRS). New to the detail is ex-US Navy SEAL Jack Silva, who arrives in Benghazi and is picked up by fellow ex-US Navy SEAL Tyrone "Rone" Woods, the 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: ex-US Marines Mark "Oz" Geist, John "Tig" Tiegen and Dave "Boon" Benton and ex-US Army Ranger Kris "Tanto" Paronto and the CIA Chief of Station, “Bob”, who constantly gives the team strict reminders to never engage the citizens.

Prior to the US Ambassador's arrival, the GRS team members visit the Special Mission, where the Ambassador will be staying. They review the location and warns Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) Agents Scott Wickland and Dave Ubben about the risk of minimal-security arrangements and the high probability of a surprise attack due its volatile circumstances. US Ambassador Chris Stevens arrives in Benghazi to maintain diplomatic connections amid the political and social chaos, with limited protection from five DSS Agents, principally Wickland and 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 are quickly overrun, which allows the attackers easy access to the compound. Wickland takes Stevens and Smith, an IT specialist, to the safe room. Unable to breach the safe room, the attackers set the building on fire hoping to burn the men out. Wickland escapes 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 for fear that the team's departure would expose the Annex. However, the team dispatches to the compound and meets up with the DSS Agents. Silva and Woods enter the building searching for Stevens and Smith but find only Smith's body. After an intense firefight inside the compound against the militants, the DSS team retreats, but after a beat-up Wickland goes the wrong way, they are followed by militants on their way back to the Annex. Later, the GRS team also retreats to the Annex.

Knowing that an attack by the militants is imminent, the CIA staff of the Annex makes several desperate calls for help, but only ex-US Navy SEAL Glen "Bub" Doherty, a GRS operator in Tripoli, helps. He forms a team, including two Delta Force operators, that flies 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 coming.

The Tripoli GRS reinforcements arrive and begin to prepare the CIA and DSS staff for their departure to the airport. The militants launch a mortar attack in which Ubben and Geist are wounded, and 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 that is escorting the GRS reinforcements. They also find out that Stevens had been 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 GRS team received contractor medals at a private ceremony, have since retired from the GRS team, and live with their families and that Geist was able to save his arm after several surgeries after re-enlisting.


GRS Team[edit]


  • Alexia Barlier as Sona Jillani, an undercover CIA Agent in Libya
  • Freddie Stroma as Brit Vayner, an undercover CIA Agent in Libya[17]
  • David Costabile as "Bob" aka. "The Chief", the Benghazi CIA Chief-of-Station
  • Shane Rowe as CIA Annex Cook, who participates in the defense of the Annex
  • Gábor Bodis as CIA Agent, a security officer

U.S. State Department[edit]



  • Andrei Claude as Militiaman at Roadblock



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.[19] 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.[19] The film would focus on six members of a security team that fought to defend the Americans stationed there.[19] On October 29, 2014, Michael Bay was set to direct and produce the thriller.[20]


On January 14, 2015, John Krasinski was cast in the film, to play one of the lead roles, a former US Navy SEAL.[10] On February 3, Pablo Schreiber also signed on to star in the film, playing Kris "Tanto" Paronto, one of the six-man security team.[15] On February 6, James Badge Dale was set to star, as the leader of the security team.[12] Max Martini was cast as another member of the security team on February 17, 2015.[13] David Denman signed on to star in the film on March 3, 2015, playing Boon, an elite sniper.[16] 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.[14] Freddie Stroma was added to the cast on March 17, 2015 to play the role of an undercover CIA officer in Libya.[17] On May 7, 2015, Toby Stephens was set to play Glen "Bub" Doherty, another of the security team members.[21]


Principal photography began on April 27, 2015 in Malta and Morocco.[16][22] A large film set was built in March 2015 in Ta' Qali, Malta at 35°53′58.9″N 14°25′42.6″E / 35.899694°N 14.428500°E / 35.899694; 14.428500.[23][24]


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.[25] The film premiered on January 12, 2016, at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas,[26] benefiting the Shadow Warriors Project, which supports private military security personnel and other groups.[26]

Unusual 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.[27][28]

Paramount specifically marketed the film to conservatives,[29] in a method similar to previous films Lone Survivor and American Sniper, both of which had beaten box office expectations. This included screening the film for key Republican Party figures in order to generate endorsement quotations.[30]

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.[31][32]

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi was released on 4K UHD Blu-Ray on June 11, 2019.[33]


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.[34]

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.[35] 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.[36] However, The Hollywood Reporter noted that the film could outperform expectations if it was buoyed by waves of patriotism.[36] 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.[37] The film added 528 theaters in its second weekend and grossed $9 million, a 39.8% drop.[38]

Critical response[edit]

13 Hours received mixed reviews from critics, though some viewed it as a welcomed tame effort from Michael Bay.[39][40][41][42][43] On review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 51% based on 222 reviews, with an average rating of 5.60/10. 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."[44] On Metacritic the film has a score of 48 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[45] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[37][46]

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".[47] 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".[48] Like Roeper's review, New York Daily News' Joe Dziemianowicz was less receptive toward 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."[49]

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."[7] Lindsey Bahr of the Associated Press was critical of the film's direction and cinematography, and found the screenplay to be confusing.[8] 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][52] Many Libyans believed it ignored the contributions of local people who attempted to save the US ambassador.[53] Libya's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Salah Belnaba, denounced the film's portrayal of the Libyan people and described it as "fanatical and ignorant."[54] 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".[53][54][55]


At the 89th Academy Awards, 13 Hours received a nomination for Best Sound Mixing.[56] 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.[9]

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 when they seek permission to go defend the embassy to "stand down" and thus denies them permission. The real-life CIA chief stated that there was no stand-down order, but multiple sources who were willing to identify themselves have refuted the still-unnamed CIA chief.[57] However, no help was sent even though officials at the highest levels had found out about the attack within the first few hours out of the 13. Also, the 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 but 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 that it would have arrived too late to make a difference.[50]

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 at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ "The Trailer For Benghazi Film '13 Hours' Is Here, And It Looks Seriously Intense". HuffPost. July 29, 2015.
  4. ^ Fraley, Jason (January 29, 2016). "Michael Bay explores Benghazi attack in action film '13 Hours'". WTOP.com.
  5. ^ "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi". AMC Theatres.
  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 Kang, Inkoo (January 13, 2016). "'13 Hours' Review: Michael Bay's Benghazi Tale Has Way More Bullets Than Brains". TheWrap. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  8. ^ a b Bahr, Lindsey (January 14, 2016). "Review: '13 Hours' Is Thrilling, but Too Video Game-Like". ABC News.
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ 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.
  11. ^ "Benghazi as Zombieland". National Review. January 15, 2016.
  12. ^ a b Fleming, Mike Jr. (February 6, 2015). "James Badge Dale Lands Lead In Michael Bay Benghazi Project '13 Hours'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 7, 2015.
  13. ^ a b Kroll, Justin (February 17, 2015). "'Pacific Rim' Actor Max Martini Joins Michael Bay's '13 Hours' (EXCLUSIVE)". variety.com. Retrieved April 4, 2015.
  14. ^ 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.
  15. ^ 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.
  16. ^ 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.
  17. ^ 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.
  18. ^ Matt Letscher at IMDb
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ Kit, Borys (October 29, 2014). "Michael Bay in Talks to Direct Benghazi Movie '13 Hours' (Exclusive)". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved May 4, 2015.
  21. ^ Kroll, Justin (May 7, 2015). "'Black Sails' Actor Toby Stephens Joins Michael Bay's '13 Hours' (EXCLUSIVE)". variety.com. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  22. ^ "On the Set for 4/27/15: Jennifer Lawrence Wraps David O. Russell's Joy & Starts on X-Men: Apocalypse". ssninsider.com. April 27, 2015. Archived from the original on May 18, 2015. Retrieved April 27, 2015.
  23. ^ Schembri Orland, Kevin (March 30, 2015). "13 Hours: Michael Bay film set built near Flower Power". independent.com.mt. Retrieved May 10, 2015.
  24. ^ "13 Hours movie set at Ta'Qali, Malta on 05-05-2015. - Images | Airphoto Malta - Custom Aerial Photos".
  25. ^ Lincoln, Ross A. (June 30, 2015). "Paramount's '13 Hours' Benghazi Drama Confirmed For MLK Weekend 2016". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved July 2, 2015.
  26. ^ a b Cieplyjan, Michael (January 5, 2016). "'13 Hours' Gives Benghazi Attack Cinematic Treatment". The New York Times. Retrieved January 6, 2016.
  27. ^ "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi". Tribute.ca.
  28. ^ "New to Theatres This Weekend: 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, Ride Along 2, Norm of the North – Film Junk".
  29. ^ Pulver, Andrew (January 15, 2016), "Benghazi attack film 13 Hours is marketed to conservative audiences", The Guardian, retrieved January 24, 2016
  30. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 17, 2016). "'13 Hours' Opens Lower Than Expected; Being Politicized Didn't Help". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 24, 2016.
  31. ^ "Michael Bay's '13 Hours' gets huge sales boost as election nears". Fox News. August 5, 2016. Archived from the original on October 22, 2016. Retrieved January 28, 2017.
  32. ^ McClintock, Pamela (August 4, 2016). "Michael Bay's Benghazi Film Gets Trump Bump in Home Video". The Hollywood Reporter.
  33. ^ 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi 4K Blu-ray, retrieved April 23, 2019
  34. ^ "Michael Bay Movie Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on September 20, 2019. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  35. ^ 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.
  36. ^ 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.
  37. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (January 18, 2016). "'Ride Along 2' Continues No. 1 Journey With $41.5M; '13 Hours' Clocks $19.65M – Monday Update". Deadline.com. Paramount Pictures' controversial 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is coming in lower than its $20M-$23M industry projection, but stronger than anticipated with a $19.65M FSSM and $16.2M in its 3-day B.O.
  38. ^ Brevet, Brad (January 24, 2016). "'The Revenant' Weathers Snow Storm While Weekend's Newcomers Perform as Expected". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on January 25, 2016. Retrieved January 25, 2016.
  39. ^ Guzmán, Rafer. "'13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi' review: Dramatized look at the deadly 2012 Benghazi attack". Newsday.
  40. ^ Jorgenson, Todd (January 16, 2016). "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi". Cinemalogue.com. Retrieved January 18, 2016.
  41. ^ "Movie Review: '13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi' – The Young Folks". The Young Folks. January 16, 2016.
  42. ^ "Fat Guys at the Movies - '13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi' Movie Review". Fat Guys at the Movies. January 15, 2016.
  43. ^ Wolcott, Gary (January 14, 2016). "Mr. Movie: '13 Hours' a dragged out version of Benghazi you've never heard". Tri-City Herald.
  44. ^ 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi at Rotten Tomatoes
  45. ^ 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  46. ^ "The Grades Are In". CinemaScore.
  47. ^ Andersen, Soren (January 14, 2016). "13 Hours: a gripping look at what happened in Benghazi". Seattle Times. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  48. ^ Roeper, Richard (March 6, 2016). "'13 Hours' keeps focus on Benghazi fight, fighters". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved January 14, 2016.
  49. ^ 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.
  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. October 20, 2015.
  52. ^ "Hollywood Benghazi film sparks controversy inside Libya". New York Post. October 20, 2015.
  53. ^ a b Child, Ben (October 22, 2015). "Angry Libyans slam Michael Bay's Benghazi attack thriller". The Guardian.
  54. ^ a b "Hollywood Benghazi film sparking anger inside Libya". CBS News. October 20, 2015.
  55. ^ "فيلم حول الهجوم على القنصلية الأمريكية في بنغازي يثير جدلا داخل ليبيا" [A film about the attack on the American consulate in Benghazi is stirring controversy inside Libya]. BBC (in Arabic). October 21, 2015.
  56. ^ "La La Land equals record for most Oscar nominations". The Guardian. January 24, 2017. Retrieved January 24, 2017.
  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. ^ French, David (January 15, 2016). "13 Hours: Of Course There's Evidence of a 'Stand-Down Order' in Benghazi". National Review.
  59. ^ Bade, Rachael (January 14, 2016). "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.

External links[edit]