I could commit 2,000 words to the unique generic fusion of “13 Hours”, on how it drags the Urban Western into a post 9/11 age by utilizing the brick-and-mortar of John Carpenter’s “Assault on Precinct 13” with a third-act sprinkling of the ticking-clock “waiting for the morning light”straight out of monster movies.
I could spend another 2,000 words on all the failures in the film: the unjustified length, the meandering of the first 45-minutes, the rank sentimentalism, and utter lack of character differentiation.
But what we have here is something BIGGER. This is a film that COLLAPSES an entire NARRATIVE PARADIGM.
It EXPLICITLY BLAMES THE AMERICAN SECURITY APPARATUS for the death of AMBASSADOR STEVENS and several SECURITY CONTRACTORS (not just HILLARY CLINTON and her “VIDEO”, which barely gets a mention, in an act that seems equal parts brazen contempt, and Hillary being small game considering what this film is after). However, the film goes one step further: Only the STRIPPED DOWN PRIVATIZED MILITARY represented by OUR CONTRACTOR PROTAGONISTS kept the DEATH TOLL that low!
But that’s not the RADICAL PART:
The MILITARY APPARATUS is UNABLE TO SCARE UP A SINGLE PLANE to do a FLY-OVER and BUZZ THE ENEMY. The C.I.A. is portrayed as a bunch of FECKLESS, EFFETE, BLUE-BLOODS looking to log their hours in BENGHAZI and GET PROMOTED.
And now I’m sure you’re thinking DADDY COLLAPSE, why is this the MOST RADICAL STATEMENT IN MAYBE A DECADE. Let me tell you:
IT CRATERS THE ENTIRE NARRATIVE IDEOLOGY THAT HAS GOVERNED MAINSTREAM POLITICAL THRILLERS SINCE 2001 (which were really REHASHED from the 70’S)…
…In a TYPICAL POLITICAL THRILLER STRUCTURE (be they of the THRILLER VARIETY or its cousin the ESPIONAGE ACTION EXTRAVAGANZA), the C.I.A. is presented as a ROGUE AGENCY that can DISPATCH LETHAL ASSASSINS and TOPPLE A GOVERNMENT with a WELL-PLACED PHONE CALL. The same C.I.A. has an IRON-BOOT to the THORAT of both the EXECUTIVE and LEGISLATIVE CLASS, and frequently THE VAUNTED MILITARY (either the SUPERSTRUCTURE or a LONE HERO) is the ONLY THING THAT CAN SAVE US FROM THE C.I.A.’s tyranny.
“13 HOURS” reduces the C.I.A. to a PUNCHLINE that shows more interest in COCKTAIL PARTIES and PROMOTIONS than actual INTELLIGENCE GATHERING. And THE GENERAL CLASS comes off about as well. But “13 HOURS” goes further, by pointing out that both of these GOVERNMENT ENTITIES are in possession of unfathomable technological resources that they seem either unable to LOCATE or lack the CLEARANCE to UNLEASH. That falls to the…
…POLITICAL CLASS who are either M.I.A. of NON-COMMITAL throughout the ENTIRE ORDEAL of the BENGHAZI SIEGE.
The radicalism of this presentation — if not already apparent — is shocking.
It posits a C.I.A. and MILITARY that are LIKELY TO GET YOU KILLED, but via INCOMPETENCE, SPINELESSNESS, and LEADEN BUREAUCRACY. Our protagonists, our HERO CONTRACTORS, are able to hold off HUNDREDS OF RADICAL MARAUDERS, but they can’t EVEN FIND SOMEONE IN CHARGE BACK AT HOME.
This is quite an epochal change from the world of BOURNE, the world of LeCARRE, the world of CLANCY. Our OWN OSSIFIED GOVERNMENT, which in “13 HOURS” resembles the HEYDAY OF SCLEROTIC SOVIETISM, is deadlier than RADICAL ISLAM…
…Which is ironically something LeCARRE has been saying FOR OVER A DECADE, but he doesn’t get its not MENDACITY, it’s INCOMPETENCE.
And I think the AUDIENCE ALREADY UNCONSCIOUSLY KNEW ALL THIS, which is why “13 HOURS” didn’t actually NEED TO BE SEEN (and also why the return of JASON BOURNE was treated like an EXTINCTION FLARE).
And speaking of GENRE: We may have left the TRADITIONAL POLITICAL THRILLER STRUCTURE; however, “13 HOURS” dragged another 70’S GENRE back in from the cold:
THE URBAN VIGILANTE FILM. “The French Connection”, “Death Wish”, “Dirty Harry”, in which LONE GUNMEN or GUNMAN (sometimes part of the BUREAUCRACY, sometimes FIGHTING IT) take the STREETS BACK for the INNOCENT from the GOVERNMENT INFRASTRUCTURES (either LOCAL, STATE, or FEDERAL) that abandoned them into a hell of social darwinism.
“13 HOURS” hits you with the new truth:
Many still believe our GOVERNMENT IS TRYING TO KILL US. We just NOW believe it’s THE ACCIDENTAL BYPRODUCT OF BUREAUCRATIC SLOTH, and NOT A GRAND PLAN.