Many folks chuckled over Michael “Transformers” Bay taking on the controversial 2012 terrorist attacks in Libya, but it turns out he was prepared to take the job pretty seriously. He focuses on the six-man team of military contractors—particularly newly-arrived Jack Silva (John Krasinski)—protecting the CIA facility that comes under siege after terrorists overrun a nearby diplomatic outpost. Chuck Hogan’s script briefly goes the eye-rolling route of reminding us about the families these ex-soldiers are still leaving behind, and hammers a bit too hard at making the CIA station chief (David Costabile) the villainous bureaucrat. But strictly as action filmmaking, it’s an impressive piece of work, balancing the chaos and uncertainty of the situation—nobody ever seems clear on which Libyans might actually be allies—with a clear sense of the geography of these battles. And while it might be designed primarily as a big earnest salute to men who risk their lives to keep others safe, it does so in a way that’s both respectful and cinematically effective. What did Bay know about actually making a good movie, and when did he know it?
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