Director: Michael Bay
Writer: Chuck Hogan
Cinematographer: Dion Beebe
by Jon Cvack
Continued for Part 1...
Having no idea of what actually occurred in terms of the action and determined to the read the book to see just how much Bay might have added, I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt and say that this entire tragedy was far more intense than I thought. After the first shots are fired, Silva and Co. urge “The Chief” to let them go and help, eventually dismissing his orders to remain with the CIA, knowing that they’re the only chance the Ambassador has. When they arrive, they discover the Ambassador had been killed by smoke inhalation, as the attackers set the palace on fire. They’re now to hold this piece of de facto American land.
What I love about Bay is that regardless of his editing speed, most of his shots are beautifully composed and lit, with the exception of his endless use of GoPros and Drones footage that looks terrible. Although not as pretty as Pearl Harbor, he uses thick greens and blues, positioned against fires burning in the distance and lights at the compound. In wide vistas we see what I’ll buy as practical effects. Given all I’ve been talking about with CGI’s problem of making scenes look unbelievably large, causing you to picture a bunch of people in a dark computer lab making images, it was refreshing to see a film that at least looks like all of it was done practically. Bay shows us the multiple buildings with the commandos positioned on the roofs and in the corridors, staring out windows, while dozens of attackers hang in the fields, hidden behind old ruins and countless goats roaming the farmland. When I watched it I was filled with exactly the feeling I’ve been thinking about - I imagined seeing this being filmed and the army of people it took both to create and perform in these moments.
And thus begins essentially two hours of action, where if you like Michael Bay action films you’ll probably love it, and if you don’t, or you’re bringing politics to the story, or the disdain cinephiles have for this guy begins to seep in, you probably hate or resent the lack of depth. It’s seeing something like this and the way it was achieved that I started to miss the old Michael Bay. Say what you will about how shallow his films are, the man knows how to entertain and make you forget the world outside and get lost within the story. When you watch his films you feel how fun they must have been to make. They’re the type of films that make young kids want to make movies. His 90s hyper-edited style doesn’t really exist anymore, especially as filmmakers like Tony Scott has passed, John McTiernan is in prison (soon to get out), and Jerry Bruckheimer has moved from creating new and original stories and toward constant reboots and sequels.
To see a non-transformers Michael Bay movie is to witness a unique voice. Just as - at least up until recently - Stephen Spielberg was considered a superficial, popular "Studio" filmmaker, with people failing to see his unparalleled style and power to show, I think Bay is underrated for what he brought to the genre and what it’s currently missing. Just today on NPR they mentioned how summer film attendance is down 10%. I haven’t even gone to see any of the Summertime Blockbusters other than Independence Day: Resurgence and it was fucking terrible, and from what I’m hearing, with the exception of - coincidentally - Spielberg’s The BFG, close to everything has been terrible, even Suicide Squad, which is not just bad, but allegedly terrible, which means I’d like it far less than the usual comic book movie. I attribute this to the complete lack of talent, in which the films feel directed by committees rather than voices, or worse, directed by television directors who, by the very nature of medium, are far less visually oriented and focused on people talking and simple ways of showing action. Michael Bay is a unique voice, in that he’s made some exceptionally crafted films that achieve exactly what they’re made to do - sheer, full throttled entertainment, and beyond Transformers, they’re often unparalleled in what they achieve. It's when you see all the terrible action films out there and then come across a film like this that I gain even greater respect for the genre, as very very few can achieve what a great action movie demands. To show a bunch of guns blasting and things blowing up, all while creating an engaging story. I still don’t know what separates him and other A-level action directors from those who fail to achieve this. That’s the magic of cinema. 13 Hours was like a throwback to the best of 90s action and I dug it.
BELOW: Enough to make any teenager watch in envy
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Thoughts on films, old and new
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