In some ways, you have to feel sorry for Michael Bay. The man brings his A-game to every film he directs, however, it just so happens is that his A-game – and overall style of filmmaking – draws the ire and hatred of true cinephiles. His latest film, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi, has been in theaters for a few days now and more or less seems to represent the director trying to get back to his action roots. The ratings are in, and while we praise hasn’t exactly been overwhelming, it still has the potential to become the notorious director’s highest critically rated film in two decades.

Watching the Rotten Tomatoes meter oscillate between rotten and fresh for 13 Hours has been arguably more riveting than some of Bay’s very own movies. At the moment, the film sits at 59% rotten, but it would only take a few more positive reviews to bump it up to a fresh rating. If the film manages to pull this off, it would become Bay’s first film to achieve a fresh rating on the site since his 1996 action thriller The Rock, which represents the peak of his career at 66% fresh.

The running theme in Bay’s more successful films seems to be a reliance on actual human drama instead of CGI monstrosities. Compared to films like Transformers, or even Pearl Harbor, The Rock is grounded by the performances of Nicholas Cage, Sean Connery, and Ed Harris as real, genuinely believable characters. In a similar fashion, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi does a serviceable job of telling a gritty story that honors the men who lost their lives in 2012.

I’m just going to play devil’s advocate for a moment. While his ability to tell compelling, human stories most certainly can be called into questions at times – particularly when many of his recent films center on talking robotic aliens – he’s not necessarily as bad of a filmmaker as some people make him out to be. Although the stories of his blockbusters can most certainly seem hollow at times, the man has a serious knack for framing bombastic action sequences. One could argue that few other filmmakers working today know how to craft kinetic, densely layered set pieces as well as he does; we’re not necessarily making that argument but there’s strong enough evidence to support it.

Only time will tell of 13 Hours manages to achieve a fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. If such a feat occurs, then it could provide the momentum Michael Bay needs to achieve more critical acclaim in the future. However, if the film flounders then it could represent one of the final nails in the coffin of Bay’s career. 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is currently in theaters; the film stars John Krasinksi and James Badge Dale.

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