Michael Bay seems to get a bad rap. The director who began making feature films all the way back in 1995 with Bad Boys is often lambasted as being one of the worst filmmakers currently working in Hollywood. It’s easy to see why some people have given him this label, especially when you take into account the fact that he directed all four of the terrible Transformers films. But even if his filmography is filled with quite a few stinkers, at least the guy has a unique style that separates some of his smaller films from a lot of the incredibly bland action movies that come out year after year. His latest, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, is a step in the right direction; Bay’s style is always apparent, but here it’s somewhat tempered. This leads to a serviceable true story action flick which proves that Bay is certainly not the worst director out there.

The year is 2012 and Benghazi is one of the most dangerous places on earth. A group of six CIA security contractors are sent into the danger zone in order to protect an American consulate. The newest member of the team is Jack Da Silva (John Krasinski), who is having trouble dealing with the fact that he’s left his family behind back home. A U.S. ambassador also arrives in Benghazi and is staying at a nearby security compound. But soon the compound is under attack and the six men are forced to step in and fight off dozens of enemies with no help in sight.

I’m certainly no expert when it comes to the Benghazi incident, but I think it’s safe to say that Bay and the screenplay from Chuck Hogan take certain liberties when it comes to its storytelling. That’s completely fine, but one would hope that if the film doesn’t feel realistically accurate, it would at least work as a compelling action flick. But the action in 13 Hours isn’t very memorable and it begins to feel repetitive, especially in the film’s third act. This is far from Bay’s worst action and it’s nowhere near as mindless as his Transformers films, but the never-ending firefights quickly grow tiresome. It also doesn’t help that the film’s structure and poor pacing make it feel about 45 minutes too long.

But there are moments when the film excels, even when you expect it to stumble. It never devolves into the over-the-top, schmaltzy patriotism that you might expect from this kind of film, instead honoring America’s soldiers in a much more quiet and moving fashion. And as the film’s primary protagonist, Krasinski is really quite good here. Breaking away from any typecasting he might have received for his role as Jim on NBC’s The Office, Krasinski is completely believable as a muscular CIA contractor. All of the other performances in the film are serviceable, but it’s really only Krasinski that’s able to standout. This is mostly due to the fact that most of the characters are written as strikingly similar to one another, which never gives the actors the ability to flesh out their performances.

Even though the majority of 13 Hours is pretty mediocre, it ends on a surprisingly high note that will leave audiences feeling moved as they leave the theater. This is far from a great film, but Bay is surprisingly competent here and does a fine job honoring fallen soldiers while still using his over-the-top style. With a January release date, the producers were clearly hoping to use this film to capitalize on the success of last year’s American Sniper and while neither film really excels, I would tentatively say that 13 Hours is a better film overall. It’s likely to be completely forgotten by the time the end of the year rolls around, but this is still pretty good for Bay.

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi receives 2/4

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