13 Hours of war and crippling dialogue

Bay's movie features stars  James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, and Max Martini. The film centers around the Benghazi attack of September 11, 2012.

Bay’s movie features stars James Badge Dale, John Krasinski, and Max Martini. The film centers around the Benghazi attack of September 11, 2012.

By Franklin Mejia, Staff Writer

The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is entertaining. As long as no one talks. The new war/action film, about the controversial Battle of Benghazi in which an American ambassador was killed in 2012, may be Michael Bay’s most grounded film to date, but shoddy writing and dialogue keep it from being anything more than passable hoorah fare.

If you go in with the right expectations–that yes, Michael Bay is no Steven Spielberg and yes, he’s prone to storytelling techniques that can quickly veer into Cheeseville–13 Hours is a perfectly fine action film. The battle scenes, while not groundbreaking, are thrilling enough,  Bay maintains a high level of tension until the climax.

Those expecting 13 Hours to be politically charged may be disappointed. While the movie does speak to a lack of communication and coordination from the State Department–something that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has had to defend–it is very much a boots-on-the-ground action-thriller, sort of like a less-good Black Hawk Down. Bay actually does a good job of holding back on over-the-top patriotism for the most part.

Well, at least until he doesn’t.

The movie’s biggest downfall is its screenplay, which forces its actors to engage in awkward and sometimes cheesy dialogue. The dialogue isn’t completely terrible, but when guns aren’t blazing Bay attempts to make his characters more three dimensional than they actually are making 13 Hours gets overly-theatrical really fast. A little bit of overzealous American pride doesn’t bug me–and when done right it can be a lot of fun–but for as much restraint as Bay shows for much of the movie, he completely loses it in the last half hour. The dialogue gets worse, everything becomes clunkier and Bay suddenly appears to be going through the motions, reverting to bad habits. The closing shot of the American flag encourages more eye rolling than a sense of pride.

We should commend Michael Bay for trying to do something different, something a little more serious. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi looks solid and features good action scenes, though visuals and action have never been Bay’s problem. Sadly, the writing just isn’t up to par, which keeps this movie from being anything more than a serviceably entertaining action flick.