In 2012 the C.I.A. were maintaining a presence in Libya after their dictator Colonel Gaddafi had been murdered during the revolution there, thus creating a dangerous power vacuum that had allowed all sorts of Islamic extremists in to fill that gap. Not every citizen agreed with them, however, and the country was plunged into civil war that also had an effect on the distribution of Gaddafi's vast military arsenal because it was now up for grabs for anyone with the wherewithal to get their hands on it, assuming they had the funds and forces at their disposal. This was where the C.I.A. was very worried, as there was a major possibility those weapons could end up in the ownership of the extremists: it was potentially deadly, but they had to intervene...
Therefore the arms trade created yet more problems for the world, not least another movie from Michael Bay, or so those who would have you believe he was the cinematic equivalent of the Antichrist might have ruefully observed. It had all his trademarks aside from the objectification of women, as there were precious few females in the story aside from the ladies back home who were relentlessly sentimentalised (when they were not being used to advertise fast food), so if you wanted to see things blow up good, blow up real good, then Bay was only too happy to provide that for you. The only thing different was that he was offering a message in this madness of war, though there were conflicting views on what that was.
Was Bay delivering a critique on the state of American foreign intervention and its links to the arms world, or was he withering in his summation of how much support the Obama administration were supplying to the military? As far as the latter went, it was clear enough that this film set out to depict the powers that be as royally screwing over the men on the ground thanks to their tactical blunders, misplaced ideas about what was important in a crisis situation, and how much red tape was tying their hands when it came to carrying out rescue operations. Many on the right preferred to see 13 Hours as a takedown of the Democrat government's inaction or even callousness, while the liberals would point out it was the Republicans' control of Congress that prevented the Democrats from acting.
Whichever was the case, this movie did not appear to care either way, all it knew was that authority figures were clueless in comparison to your average soldier whose experience was worth its weight in gold where saving lives were concerned. Naturally, this was based on actual events, a September 11th anniversary attack on American bases in Benghazi that saw a U.S. Ambassador murdered by the extremists, here with the blame put soundly on the intelligence agency who either prevented the men who could have saved him and his staff from acting, or going further and stating outright that the consulate that was under attack was left to fend for itself when the C.I.A. failed to rouse its forces, apparently because they believed it was a hopeless situation and the under siege Americans and others should expect to be sacrificed.
Naturally, this was a contentious point of view, and not one shared by those who were informed enough on that particular crisis to counter it, including the actual Chief who confronted the film on its barefaced lie, but the perhaps uncomfortable fact of 13 Hours was that it was entertainment first and reportage second. It's interesting how influential Ridley Scott's Black Hawk Down, which was far from a popular hit, though it made plenty of profit at the time, became such an influence on the staging of twenty-first century battle stories, whether based in fact or otherwise, because the sense of chaos when in the heat of combat was lifted straight from that film time and again, even more in the terrorist-ridden global politics of the era they were made in. This was no exception, though Bay was also taking a leaf out of the John Carpenter instruction manual by recreating Assault on Precinct 13 after a fashion (that title was surely no coincidence) when our heroes are holed up as the Islamist fighters (even more anonymous than the good guys) swarm around picking them off with bullets and bombs. At least the point that those terrorists had far from universal support in the Middle East and North Africa was made clear, but this was not exactly a textbook-friendly effort. Music by Lorne Balfe.