Brendan Wahl | @BrenW23
Michael Bay is a real mixed bag for me. At times he can be extremely overbearing (Pearl Harbour), he can sometimes find a nice center (The Rock), he can direct films with seemingly endless and drab action scenes (Transformers 2) or movies that become a guilty pleasure for me (Bad Boys II). He also has a bit of a reputation for producing remakes that have ruined the original incarnation of the film in question like Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. He has a very spotty career and anytime I see his name on a film, I take a deep breath and wonder if it will be worth it. His movies also tend to be very long and this one clocks in at 144 minutes.
The film’s plot centers around the Benghazi conflict that took place on September 11th, 2012 involving six “secret soldiers” that are sent to that nation in order to protect two Americans in Ambassador Chris Stevens and an officer for the Foreign Service, Sean Smith. The majority of the film centers on the firefight between these men, some allies, and a whole squad of Islamic militants. Thankfully, the film stays away from the politics somewhat (I was warned that it was very conservative but I didn’t see that too much) but then the real question remains: is it any good?
On the whole, it’s a fairly shallow (but not altogether awful) film and there is one glaring thing that makes the film hard for me to enjoy. The first 90 minutes of it are, at times, excruciating to watch. In my opinion, Bay has a real hard time directing action, which is a huge problem for him because those are the movies he tends to make. I don’t know who to place more of the blame on: the cinematographer, Bay himself, or the guys with ADD sitting in the editing booth. The dizzying nature of the scenes are very distracting and I found myself so pre-occupied that I had a real hard time concentrating on the actual story being told. I understand that they wanted to make the whole thing seem like a dizzying experience to make people feel like they are there but there is a world of difference between how they do that in this film and how they accomplish it in a film like The Revenant or Sicario.
That being said, the last hour is a lot easier to sit through but by that time the damage has already been done and we are basically just spinning our wheels until the inevitable ending. The last chunk of the film is essentially just them waiting, getting into a firefight, waiting, getting into another firefight, shower, rinse, repeat. It just became exhausting after a while. As the film drew near to its conclusion, I’ve come to my own conclusion that they must’ve had different people working on these sections of the film because they are almost like night and day in comparison to each other.
I haven’t said anything about the acting yet because quite frankly it wasn’t anything to write home about. I wouldn’t say any of them were bad or anything but everyone was just kinda… there. John Krasinski is a good enough lead and would probably stand out more in a film with a better script. I will say that he really impressed me in one scene where he had to get emotional and shed some tears. It didn’t look fake at all and I’ve seen better actors do terrible crying scenes so… kudos! The only other one I really knew was David Denman (Roy from The Office) and he was fine but no different from the rest of the guys. The writers didn’t do a very good job at differentiating between the characters and they all just come across as a bunch of stereotypical military guys.
Don’t expect greatness or even a good film but I suppose that you could do worse things on a Friday night. Just bring some Tylenol.
Brendan Wahl is an independent movie reviewer based in Fredericton. He also reviews movies on the podcast Cinema Ramblin’.