The "R" stands for "F-word". A lot of times. Also, shootin' folks. "R" stands for "F-word" and "Shootin' Folks."
DIRECTOR: Michael Bay
Remember that time I had to review a Michael Bay movie because it was up for an Academy Award for "Best Sound Mixing"? Okay, I didn't have to, but you don't know how much my brain craves order and structure. I watched this movie. I have to review it. If not, something very bad will happen. (I started this as a joke, but then realized that I would be hypercritical of my laziness and just get depressed that I never finish any projects that I start. Geez, that got dark quickly.)
Michael Bay has been criticized for being one of the most bro-ey directors of all time. (I realized I used the word "Bro-ey" to describe Ghost in the Shell. Them's the breaks.) For a while, I couldn't stand behind it. I liked some of his early stuff. I really dig The Rock. Gone in Sixty Seconds was produced by him, I think. There's some fun stuff in his oeuvre. But then I started watching them critically and I couldn't deny that this guy seemed to represent the worst of my gender. Blowing stuff up and pretty girls who don't advance the plot is his bread and butter and I drifted away. I forced myself to watch two of the Transformers movies and wanted to smack my head into a wall. I even tried watching the first Ninja Turtles movie, but even his producer credit managed to seep through and make me want to shy away from all light and sound. So going into 13 Hours, I had a pretty heavy task ahead of me. I'm going to give him some props throughout, but I am going to state it pretty clearly. This movie is only okay. It does its job and that job isn't my cup of tea. The patriotic action movie always leaves me a little jaded and I'm not trying to say that as a political statement. I just don't get into them.
I give Bay some credit in this film for a degree of respect that I haven't seen him hold before. This seems more of a passion project more than his other films, shy of Pearl Harbor. He does genuinely seem motivated to tell a story about the incident in Benghazi and does so in a less than preachy way. Considering that Benghazi affected much of the most recent presidential election, allowing a clear narrative to play out -regardless of how accurate it may be -might have been the best choice. I could have seen this movie as an extremely preachy piece in the hands of Oliver Stone or even James Cameron, but Bay's love for popcorn cinema actually seems to work in his favor this time. The movie acknowledges that this was a tragic event, especially in its epilogue, but doesn't do so ramming it down the audience's throats. Rather, he does a mildly good job of establishing the relationships between the contractors and establishing a fairly clear conflict. Yes, there is a solid amount of criticism of the CIA, but not so much so that it paints them as inhuman or completely cartoonish. It does slow-clap a bit much for the contractors, but that's not a bad thing. The only thing that the movie really faults on this front is how much like action heroes these guys are. But the movie is done in honor of them, so that's not necessarily a bad thing, right?
Bay's worst enemy is himself. Like J.J. Abrams, he uses his same techniques time-and-time-again. His use of magic hour and night vision does get a bit played out and I don't know if it's a stamp that he's necessarily proud of. But he keeps on doing it. He has to have heard the criticism before. I get the vibe that Michael Bay just sits on piles of money and Lamborghinis to really give a crap about cinematic criticism, but there has to be something that can be done. The Tim Burton movie, Big Fish, totally changed a lot of the Burtonesque things about it and really sits in my stomach as one of the better movies because it was so unique. Maybe he knows that's what his audience wants, but magic hour always feels cheap when I see it in his films. Do something new! Experiment! Think what the world would be like if every Kevin Smith movie looked like Clerks! (Okay, bad example, but you get what I mean.)
So I guess, yay, for trying. Yeah, Pearl Harbor wasn't great. This, also, isn't great. But it's not terrible and for a big naysayer when it comes to Michael Bay, that might be a victory in itself. The weird part is that I'm somewhat compelled to rewatch The Rock, but I probably won't do that.
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.