Michael Bay is a guy who splurges as much as the GDP of an African nation to direct movies meant for eight year olds. I mean Transformers by that. These movies are so horrible that despite being a fan of this genre I feel action fatigue (if that’s a term). Take for instance, the Pyramid destruction scene from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, that dragged more than the time Egyptians would have taken to build the structure.
Bay has mastery over lights, sound, and explosions. It is just that he doesn’t know when to stop. If retrained, he can make great movies such as The Rock and Armageddon. Feel free to judge me for the “nuke-the-asteroid” movie. That one is my cinematic guilty pleasure.
I’m mentioning all this because, after 18 years, Bay has made a great movie. Dubbed 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, the movie is based on the terrorist attack on the US diplomatic compound in Libya. It focuses on the heroics of the six member security squad that held off hundreds of local militia. In addition to the assault riffles (mostly Kalashnikovs), the terrorists had access to RPG (Rocket-Propelled Grenades), grenades, mortars, and even 14.5 mm anti-aircraft machine guns. Mostly, stolen from Gaddafi’s arsenal. It is about a handful of Americans trapped in the militia stronghold. The premise shares similarities with Black Hawk Down. The execution too is as good as Ridley Scott’s movie. However, Black Hawk Down has an edge in terms of riveting set-pieces.
The best thing about this movie is Michael Bay’s simplistic approach. The movie is as straightforward as its tagline: “When everything went wrong, six men had the courage to do what was right”. See, no wordplay. Bay makes no efforts to make his movie politically correct. 13 Hours does not question whether Americans should have been there. It only strongly supports the actions of grossly outnumbered military individuals. Such approach is much better than turning your movie into a drag, trying too hard to achieve the political correctness. 13 Hours also waves the flag. However, you won’t find it annoying unless you passionately hate the United States of America.
The ensemble cast is almost perfect. The characters are strong and convincing. More importantly, the emotional angle is effectively added without stalling the movie’s pace. This was also the first time I actually cared for the characters in a Micheal Bay movie. Otherwise, over the years, I was least bothered if Shia LaBeouf gets squashed under Bumblebee.
Production design, as you would expect from a Micheal Bay movie, is top notch. In night shots, the lights are cleverly used to highlight certain characters. This technique is also used to add depth to the sets. Overall, the cinematography is in line with the signature Micheal Bay style. For instance, the shaky camera effect and fast cuts used during one car scene is reminiscent of Bad Boys II. The biggest difference though is that 13 Hours is the director’s most sincere and serious depiction of the action. The movie features some of the most intense and gritty firefights Bay has ever delivered. Does it match the intensity of Children Of Men’s skirmish sequence? No! However, it is good enough to cement Bay in the list of good directors.