By Nico Beland
Movie Review: B- (3 stars)
Director Michael Bay has quite an interesting career doesn’t he? He started off with the 1995 box office success, Bad Boys which starred Will Smith and Martin Lawrence, but unfortunately the film’s reception upon release was rather mixed, it certainly wasn’t the worst he had to offer in his career, but it wasn’t a very good start for him. That is until 1996 when he released The Rock, which had more positive reception and like Bad Boys, it was a hit at the box office, it’s not Oscar material or anything like that, but it’s mindless dumb fun, much like his Transformers movie from 2007.
Unfortunately, his career went downhill with critic reviews but box office results were set to overdrive with the infamous Pearl Harbor, Armageddon, Bad Boys II, and of course, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, all of which were big hits but widely panned by critics, thus resulting in the beginning of Michael Bay’s frequent Razzie appearances. Once in a while he had some decent and less bad movies made in between those critical duds like Pain & Gain, Transformers: Dark of the Moon, and the Bay produced films, I Am Number Four and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (although none of these movies I’m defending, if you hate or dislike any of these films I understand perfectly!).
And after another critically panned Transformers movie released a couple years go, Transformers: Age of Extinction, Michael Bay takes a break from Transformers to attempt another true story dramatization with 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, which I had very low expectations because didn’t directing history or true stories backfire exponentially with Pearl Harbor? But when I looked up the cast list and saw John Krasinski (The Office, Away We Go, Leatherheads) and James Badge Dale (The Departed, Iron Man 3, The Walk) were casted, I thought they were very different cast choices for a Michael Bay film, and practically none of his frequent cast collaborators are in this movie, so I have to give Bay props for that.
What truly got me feeling good about seeing this film were the reviews by Rotten Tomatoes and my local newspaper, the Rotten Tomatoes score was around the scores of the first Transformers movie and The Rock, and when it comes to Michael Bay, an adequate Rotten Tomatoes score is like critical acclaim. Unlike Pearl Harbor, the 2012 Benghazi terrorist attacks is definitely a closer historical event for Michael Bay to utilize his over the top, frenetic action sequences to his advantage, because with a movie like Pearl Harbor, it needed a James Cameron or Steven Spielberg in the director’s chair for that, THIS however, Navy Seals, Marines, and Army soldiers and Islamic terrorists battling each other in a war, lots of explosions, gripping action, shaky cameras, and slow motion, yeah those are his traditional clichés, but when it’s wrapped around a story like this, it makes a lot more sense than putting them in Pearl Harbor with a half-ass Titanic style love story.
The film follows military veterans, Tyrone S. “Rone” Woods (Dale) and Jack Da Silva (Krasinski) traveling to Benghazi to battle Islamic militants on September 11, 2012 (Eleven years after 9/11 occurred) during the 2012 Benghazi attacks after the militants attacked an American diplomatic compound and a CIA Annex in Benghazi, Libya. Rone and Jack join forces with a group of other military veterans that worked in the Navy, Marines, and Army Special Forces to fight back in a war of blood and ashes everywhere, in hopes to make it out of Benghazi alive and see their families again.
That’s basically the film’s plot in a nutshell, pretty basic, after all it is a Michael Bay film. However, the action is very bloated and filled to the brim with traditional Michael Bay clichés, but unlike his other films, the cast attached to the film is so engaging that it almost doesn’t matter, definitely more gripping with action than any of the Transformers movies put together.
The film overall is decent for a Michael Bay movie, and usually it’s very rare for a Michael Bay movie to have adequate reviews these days. I may have liked Transformers: Dark of the Moon and Transformers: Age of Extinction, but I can see why others weren’t very enthusiastic and thrilled about them. But gladly that wasn’t the case here, quite a few people liked 13 Hours, it’s no masterpiece or anything like that, but compared to the Transformers: Revenge of the Fallens, the Pearl Harbors, and Bad Boys IIs we had in his career, it’s on par with The Rock and the first Transformers as one of those silly, over the top Michael Bay movies that you can actually sit down and enjoy from start to finish.
Though some problems I have is the character development is pretty mediocre as well as a bigger focus on the grittiness and action, if the characters were developed as well as the action scenes, it could be another Saving Private Ryan. So I’m glad I saw this, so rare for me to say that about Michael Bay movies and actually mean it, but hopefully he’ll do more mature movies in the future, as soon as he’s done going back to the same route he’s so used to with Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Out of the Shadows and Transformers 5.