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Michael Bay’s latest action film, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, released in theaters nationwide on Friday, portrays the deadly 2012 attack that killed four Americans, including Ambassador J. Christopher Stevenson, on an American diplomatic compound in Libya.
When the trailer was released last fall, it stirred quite a bit of controversy among Benghazi, Libya residents and government officials. Both groups slammed the Transformers director, calling it an “insult” to the north African nation.
Libya’s culture and information minister, Omar Gawaari, told the Associated Press that 13 Hours portrays the US contractors who were unable to secure the ambassador “as heroes.” He added that Bay made “America’s failure to protect its own citizens in a fragile state into a typical action movie all about American heroism.”
Now that the film is out, a number of critics outside Libya aren’t too pleased with it either. The Guardian’s Jordan Hoffman writes, “…in all its thudding, bloody brutality, 13 Hours is an extraordinary artifact, a film that makes you long for the subtlety of something like Black Hawk Down.”
Hoffman also points out that it’s perfectly timed for the presidential election, catering to conservatives with “approximately 400,000 instances in this not-very-subtle screenplay where Fox News viewers are cued to hiss at a phantom Hillary Rodham Clinton, the right wing’s scapegoat for the missteps that kept the Benghazi outpost fighting so long without backup.”
Given that, it’s not so surprising that the movie is getting rave views by right wing conservatives. CNN notes that if it “triumphs at the box office this weekend, it might go down as a ‘Fox News blockbuster.'”
The news site added, “Stephen Hayes, a senior writer for the conservative Weekly Standard and a Fox News contributor, hailed 13 Hours as ‘extraordinary’ and ‘a cinematic masterpiece.’ Fox News host Megyn Kelly found the movie ‘riveting.'”
For them, CNN continues, “the movie is seen as a potential drag on the presidential aspirations of Hillary Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time of the attack.”
Political bias aside, the Seattle Times calls it “a gripping look at what happened in Benghazi,” though it notes that “its main drawback is that its main characters are surprisingly ill-defined,” summing it up as “a frustrating flaw in an otherwise engrossing picture.”
Variety‘s Justin Chang writes “Michael Bay makes a half-successful bid for seriousness with this harrowing, often willfully confusing account of the 2012 Benghazi attacks,” while L.A. Weekly‘s Amy Nicholson says, “A wholly fictitious bus blast had my audience applauding with glee. ‘That was for us!’ a character grins. Yes, literally — it was invented for a crowd that prefers fist-pumping to facts.”