ByPaul Donovan, writer at
A jerk with an opinion. An explorer of transgressive cinema. See more things about movies at
Paul Donovan

If you know what you're getting, this is a solid action war flick.

1. This movie is a recreation of the terrorist attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya on Sept. 11, 2012. People are still arguing about what exactly happened and who knew about it.

You should know right off the top that this movie is an account of the tragedy as interpreted by Michael Bay, the guy that gave us Transformers. So if you are expecting a documentary, or a sensitive exploration of the psychological toll of war on humanity, then you are an idiot.

2. The tragedy is still so fresh and political, that Bay's story is also automatically political. When certain points of the actual attack are unclear (or inconvenient), Bay fills in the holes himself, and his bias is exposed. So while Hilary Clinton is never named in the movie, people that know some of the context of the incident may come away thinking it's partly her fault.

3. I give credit to Bay for trying as much as possible to avoid the political mess and unanswered questions surrounding this incident. He tries to stay focused on a blow-by-blow account of the actual attack. For the most part, this seems to be a fairly accurate depiction of events, except maybe for the "stand down" order and the request for air support.

4. The first part of the film sets up the situation; the dialogue is fast and technical. It requires much more concentration than any other Michael Bay movie I've seen.

5. Sure, Michael Bay admitted that he makes movies geared for teenage boys, but so what? When it comes to action, Bay is a master. Fans of his style will be happy to know there's still plenty of orange light, slow motion, low-angle heroic shots, parallax, things billowing in the wind, spectacular explosions and a Hans Zimmer soundtrack. He makes war look so damn beautiful.

6. This is a hyper macho movie. The moral of the story is that action heroes are awesome, and the brainy people that overthink things make problems worse. So it's all the more amazing that John Krasinski does such a good job here. He has completely transformed himself from his famous character Jim in The Office.

7. In some scenes I had no idea what was going on, or who was shooting at who. This gave me a small sense of what it must have been like to really be there, when nobody knew who was on which side.

8. There is less overt patriotic flag waving in this movie than I expected. The focus here is on individual heroism. And the depiction of middle-easterners seems more balanced than in previous similar movies, like American Sniper.

9. This is a quick-edited action spectacle that doesn't feel like the actual two-and-a-half-hour run time. The factual details of the event are not as important as they might be, because of how the movie is presented. This is an engaging and tense film about how wars are fought today.

What do you think? Was the movie balanced? Was it OK to make the tragedy an action picture? Add some points below!


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