The newest attempt at American Sniper or Lone Survivor is the Michael Bay film 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi. If you live near the internet or a conservative relative you have probably heard about this film. My first glimpse of it was the release of the teaser trailer earlier in 2015. As an aspiring cinephile, fan of John Krasinski, and sucker for a good action movie, I grew very excited at the first look. I’m sure many other movie lovers did too, at least I hope so.
I’ve grown up with a conservative up-bringing, so Benghazi is not a foreign word to my ears. My first reaction to the trailer was hell yeah, that is gonna be a good movie. Well guess what, I was right. Unfortunately, not everyone else is [willing] to think the same.
13 Hours’ genre of film has done very well in the United States. Lone Survivor made $125+ million domestic; American Sniper, $350+ domestic. Basically Americans love these types of movies. But 13 Hours did not have the same immediate box-office results as the others. Bringing in $16+ million its first weekend, it has a long way to go to be an ear shot away from its comparisons. And this, makes me really sad.
There is much speculation on reasons behind the failure of a box-office hit for the Bay-directed film. Some say it was the GOP; others say it was the indirect marketing towards a more Conservative side of the political spectrum.
Looking at Paramount’s marketing for the film, one could make those arguments; however a majority of Paramount’s marketing is showing off John Krasinski’s new beard and inspiring, “war-hero” quotes to draw in audience attention.
The Conservative side of the news media and Washington has strongly encouraged Americans to watch 13 Hours; brilliant way to land free marketing – or is it?
The GOP and Republican front runner Donald Trump have been using the film as a political tactic to bring down Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama. Trump rented out a theater in Iowa, giving away free tickets to the film, as a punch to Clinton. Conservative news station, Fox News has been the film’s main source of marketing for its biggest target audience. The Democratic candidate, Clinton, has been avoiding discussion of the film ever since the release of the first trailer. A majority of Democratic supporters have been denouncing the film and the sequence of events that occurred on September 11th, 2012 and after.
Many Americans pre- and post-screening expressed opinions of hope that the film would expose the Obama administration and take down the Clinton campaign. I believe that the efforts of the faces of the political parties and their politically passionate followers have been a large reason for the failure at the box-office.
Potential audiences who swing left presumably wouldn’t have watched the film anyway, due to the name Benghazi, the skepticism of the events that occurred and the negative controversy around Clinton. Potential audiences who swing right are most-likely going to see the film regardless, because of their “objective” to watch the truth and expose Clinton during a pivotal moment in her campaign. The middle [neutral, non-polarized, or uninterested in politics, average movie-goer] was the most important piece of the puzzle for Paramount. I wish they could’ve tapped into the middle more; however, I don’t know if the middle could’ve listened past both the left and right.
Regardless of the political controversy outside of the theater, 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi was a great movie. An Intense – Stressful – Emotional – Powerful – Inspiring film, that tells the story of brave men [and women] who willingly fight for the safety of Americans on a regular basis. That is the purpose behind this film. Michael Bay said it himself:
“It avoids the politics. It gives you the facts. But at the end of the day, it’s an inspirational story.”
On The O’Reilly Factor, Bill O’Reilly asked Bay about the non-political perspective the film has on “Benghazi” and its focus on the night of September 11-12, 2012. Bay replied with:
“Here’s the thing, the politics got in the way of this great human story that happened. And this is really to honor these type of men that do this every day — that put themselves in harm’s way. That’s what this movie is about.”
I agree with Bay, with the idea that this movie was based off of the specific night of September 11th, focusing on the men who risked their lives to protect others. Yes, many things are controversial, including Clinton and the scrutiny she is receiving for her actions/lack-of-actions, but one thing that has fallen through the cracks is a well-made film about American heroes — directed by one of the most well-known directors in film history. Michael Bay hasn’t been the only person from the film to speak out about this; Krasinski criticized politicians on both sides for using the film as “a political football” in his interview with the Daily Beast. He continued:
“Now, I’d be naïve to say that people weren’t going to take this politically. If that was your agenda, and you wanted to see this movie politically through your own lens, you were going to do that whether we want you to or not. And that’s your right. What I don’t think is fair, and what I think is a shame—and actually I’ll go so far as to say a total dishonor—is to not at least acknowledge what this story is: acknowledging these six guys. These six guys need that acknowledgement, and they represent the men and women who serve all around the world. So by just taking this as a political football of ‘this movie is a total propaganda piece,’ you are robbing people of the ability to see what these men and women are actually going through.”
“The truth is, we should all be proud of these guys, and the moment you politicize it, the more you’re moving us toward a world that I don’t want to be living in; a world where people want to score political points at all costs.”
Krasinski went on to say how he took this politicizing of the film very personal because he and the other actors involved “put our names on the line to make sure we did justice to these guys.”¹
So, movie-goers who are trying to decide which movie to go see this weekend: Put the politics on mute for a minute, and let your emotional heartstrings be tugged on for 144 minutes. Because Jim from The Office has really bulked up and he and his friends tell an amazing story about a group of soldiers having the strength and courage to protect their fellow Americans in a time of crisis. 144 minutes later, maybe you’ll leave the theater saying hell yeah, that was a good movie.
What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments section!