Bay makes Benghazi boring in ‘13 Hours’

Michael Bay’s “Pearl Harbor” is one of the worst films ever made. It’s a special combination of excruciatingly awful writing, acting and a fundamental lack of historical accuracy that ends up being disrespectful to just about every person involved in that attack.

America’s favorite explosion salesman is back in the war reenactment game with “13 Hours,” an inside look at the controversial terrorist attack on the poorly-defended American consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that killed an American ambassador and his security detail.

While Bay’s filmmaking chops have improved by several orders of magnitude since 2001, this ripped-from-the-headlines war story is a poor fit for his style. Ultimately, it does little to distinguish itself from or improve upon the recent surge of modern warfare-themed Hollywood films.

The story almost entirely follows a group of six private security contractors who were guarding a covert CIA base just down the road from the consulate. John Krasinski of “The Office” (who got seriously ripped for this role) is framed as the protagonist, but like the rest of the unit, nothing about his personality or backstory really stands out.

As “13 Hours” tells it, the unit got a distress call from the consulate when the attack started, but CIA bureaucracy prevented them from making a move until it was too late. Bay goes in hard on government red tape, showing us that more swift action might have prevented those deaths.

Of course, the CIA has officially rejected the notion that they told anyone nearby to stand down during the attack. At best, it’s usually smart to take what they say with a grain of salt, but that’s just me.

Anyone looking for a damning cinematic indictment of Hillary Clinton will leave “13 Hours” sorely disappointed, as Bay focuses the action squarely on the ground and in the moment. The former secretary of state is not mentioned once, meaning there’s no handwringing about private email servers or anything like that.

It ever-so-briefly touches on the whole “was it a spontaneous demonstration or planned attack” question, but otherwise, Bay shows a surprising amount of restraint in this regard. I’m not sure what his attempt at preachiness would look like, but I don’t think I want to know.

“13 Hours” mostly falls apart when it tries to be an action movie. Bay smartly aims to make the combat look more realistic than what he’s used to (think “Zero Dark Thirty”), but the result is lots of shaky-cam shots of guys running and/or shooting at other guys.

It also paints Libya in the same vaguely Islamophobic light as most American films set in Middle Eastern or North African countries. It’s no worse than its contemporaries in this regard, except for when one of the protagonists threatens to order a drone strike on another man’s family. That’s actually despicable.

Aside from that short exchange early in the film, “13 Hours” is never interesting enough to hate. That also means it’s tough to enjoy on any level.

Bay has obviously matured as a filmmaker in some respects, but he should stick to nonsensical, fantasy action or comedic buffoonery like “Pain & Gain.”