This is probably the worst war biopic I've ever seen, excluding thoroughly fictionalized ones such as Michael Bay's Pearl Harbor. In fact, I would hesitate to even call Bay's more recent war film, 13 Hours, a bad film as it at least had a compelling story and fully realized characters that I cared about in spite of it's many shortcomings.
This film is cheesier than the average 80's action flick. Every line of dialogue feels like it came off a script, and not a very clever one at that. It feels like there are dozens of lines in the film from every major character that are delivered with the desperate intention to become quotes.
The main character especially comes off as unreasonably brash. During the introduction, he immediately gives his superiors attitude following the September 11th attacks, and subsequently throws a tantrum, kicking over his desk to protest against his promotion, and immediately gets what he wants for being an impatient manchild, though the movie intended me to get the impression that this guy's valiant and brave. Despite no combat experience, he's confident that he and his team are coming back alive after kicking some terrorist asses, and they're gonna look dope doin' it.
At no point did I feel any tension. Unlike just about every other film of the genre, the soldiers aren't shown as having fear despite lazily uttered lines claiming they do. Characters charge into battle constantly, like birds with their chests puffed up, to such a blatant degree that it's surprising that they weren't going to subvert this trope and found it simply acceptable. There's hardly any struggle for victory in this film, as it feels the good guys are chasing the baddies down like dogs and bombarding them from a distance with air strikes over and over. It's like 300, except with modern weaponry, and less tact, and no style. The American soldiers feel invincible, and they pretty much are as they survive several close-proximity explosions while baddies are turned to red mist, hoist by their own petards. There's no attempt made to surprise viewers, and oddly enough it tries its best to be comfortable and digestible. Though it can be argued that too many films nowadays are dark and gritty, there's a place for that tone, and war films are definitely the place to stick to that. The best war films are the ones that tend to delve deep into the horrors of war, but this film would rather be a positive idea rather than a though-provoking experience. It is easy to evoke strong sympathy for characters of a war film, especially when they're based on true events, but this film misses the mark entirely.
The story isn't all that interesting to begin with. There's good intentions here, which are likely more apparent in the novel they skimmed through in making this adaptation, but ultimately it comes off as the less interesting spin-off in the events surrounding 9/11 and the war in the Middle East. United 93 has an incredible narrative, and it manages to make the most of its incredibly compelling story of real-world heroism while remaining respectful and realistic. 13 Hours, while very flawed, tells the politically controversial story of the Benghazi attacks on the 11th anniversary of 9/11. Zero Dark Thirty tells the story of assassinating Osama Bin Laden and is critically acclaimed. This film feels kind of like Pearl Harbor if that movie skipped the part where Pearl Harbor was attacked and instead focused on Hiroshima.
The editing is sloppy at best. There are many instances of blood squibs that look very digital which cheapen the movie and make it look like a video game at parts. Numerous smoke, fire, and explosion effects also looked quite fake, and resolutions of objects seemed inconsistent. Sometimes objects and backgrounds looked blown up and low-detail or even skewed vertically in contrast to the foreground characters, leading me to believe they must have been chroma-keyed in, poorly. There are annoyingly useless and repetitive clips, such as the needless cuts to the Jafar-esque villain of the film giving menacing stares at our heroes, which add nothing to the plot or characters and just act as padding in an already paper-thin story for an extremely bloated movie.
Also, this may be an error on my theater's part, but the audio was out of sync. Characters' lips were moving about a quarter of a second behind the actual audio, though it wouldn't be unlikely that something went wrong beyond the filmmaking itself, so I won't hold this against the film as of yet.
The humor was cringeworthy at best. There's jokes and gags tossed in here and there which are thankfully not too frequent, but while they're intended for levity they come off as immature and inappropriate, especially given this movie's not depressing and thus doesn't require any levity. One character says he's hungry despite there being no word of this and nothing to hint to anyone in the crew being famished at this point, and he ends up buying a sheep off a local for $300, just to execute a punchline that this guy should be working for military commission, and instead of getting a scene with the crew eating a sheep and allowing for character interaction we skip to more boring military discussion followed by one of the longest action sequences I've ever seen in a movie.
This movie lacks any passion and is simply a paint-by-numbers war flick with no more intention than cashing in on the lowest common denominators, and it will impress none other than the least demanding moviegoers.