Movie ’13 Hours’ Thrusts Benghazi Back Onto Center Stage
By Cathy Burke | Friday, 15 Jan 2016 08:51 PM
A Hollywood blockbuster about the 2012 Benghazi attacks is putting back onto center stage the roles played by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration – a spotlight GOP lawmakers, and at least one presidential contender, are welcoming.
In Baltimore for their annual issues retreat Thursday, dozens of Republican lawmakers went to see "13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi," about the Sept. 11, 2012 strike in Libya that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans at a State Department outpost and CIA annex.
"If you think about it, it was sad and it was wrong and it was touching," Utah GOP Rep. Rob Bishop said afterward – reporting some lawmakers on the select House panel investigating Benghazi were moved by the film.
"Well done," Bishop declared.
Front-running GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump event rented out an Iowa theater so the public could see the film for free.
"Mr. Trump would like all Americans to know the truth about what happened at Benghazi," Trump’s Iowa co-chair Tana Goertz said, The Des Moines Register reported. "The theater is paid for. The tickets are paid for. You just have to RSVP."
The select House committee investigation, which began in 2014, has focused in part on Clinton’s role as secretary of state, and also whether there was a "stand down" order delaying a rescue team – a claim the movie revives. The committee also exposed Clinton’s secret email account — now the subject of an FBI investigation.
"Even if an unmentioned Hillary Clinton has nothing specific to worry about in regard to the film’s content, its mere existence will stir up fresh talk about her behavior regarding the incident," Todd McCarthy writes in a review for The Hollywood Reporter.
But in fact, the Benghazi attack has long dogged Clinton’s presidential campaign, with critics arguing the incident could have been prevented, and that Clinton lied to the families of the victims when she told them the attack stemmed from a spontaneous protest over an anti-Islam video.
Washington Times writer Valerie Richardson notes the fact that Paramount Pictures even made the movie "comes as something of a triumph for conservative audiences, the latest acknowledgment that patriotic, right-of-center movies are no longer anathema in Hollywood."
In the National Review, Stephen Miller wrote that Bay’s "straightforward portrayal of the attack will be as close as pop culture comes to analyzing the failures of the Obama administration and Hillary Clinton that night. Still, the fact that there is any reminder of Benghazi in our popular culture at all is doubtless giving the Clinton campaign major headaches."
Paramount premiered the movie in Dallas on Tuesday night at a benefit for veterans in AT&T Stadium and to honor the contractors and those who died in the attacks. Bay told one reporter that the city was "a great place to show it because it is the heartland of America."
"It’s a powerful movie, and hopefully this gets the word out," he said.
Paramount Vice Chairman Rob Moore told Variety that they expected about 12,000 to 15,000 people to show up for the event; as it turned out, 32,000 did.
Moore said that what particularly intrigued them was "this amazing story that was getting lost in the politics."
"The fact of the matter is the word ‘Benghazi’ has been so connected to political debate that you can’t avoid the politics," Moore said. "Our hope is that when people see the movie, it turns into a conversation about the heroism of these guys, about how some people lay down their lives to save others. "
While the movie is debuting on the cusp of a presidential primary, Paramount actually is following the same time frame of recent movies that have captured military and national security sacrifice in the Middle East, including "American Sniper" last year, "Lone Survivor" in 2014 and "Zero Dark Thirty" in 2013, all of which debuted in January.
Moore said that the release date was a function of Bay’s production schedule as well as the three-day holiday weekend.
"If this movie came out closer to the general election, that is when this movie would become a political lightning rod," Moore said.
Bay’s film is based on "13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi," which was written by Mitchell Zuckoff and the security team, prefaced by a note about how they are avoiding the "political storm" and instead wanted to tell "what they did, what they saw, and what happened to them."
The book and the movie do not avoid what has been a point of contention. As the consulate is under siege and Stevens and security personnel call for help, the security contractors at the annex are told by the CIA chief there to "stand down" and wait, causing a delay in response of about 20 minutes.
That "stand down" order has been among the most controversial aspects of the Benghazi story. In the book and the movie, the CIA chief tells them to wait, as he seeks out a local militia to respond to the siege. As the situation gets more dire, the contractors buck the "stand down" order and leave for the consulate.
The movie does show how security at the consulate was insufficient and requests for additional measures were denied.
A spokesman for the CIA is criticizing the movie.
"No one will mistake this movie for a documentary," Ryan Tripani told The Washington Post. "It’s a distortion of the events and people who served in Benghazi that night. It’s shameful that, in order to highlight the heroism of some, those responsible for the movie felt the need to denigrate the courage of other Americans who served in harm’s way."
New York Post writer Reed Tucker’s examination of the movie finds "13 Hours" takes a point of view sympathetic to Clinton and Obama administration critics.
"This wasn’t the worst [firefight of my life], but it was the longest," Kris Paronto, a former Army Ranger, tells the Post.
"The only difference with this one was that we were left behind. That’s just the truth. No support came. Period."
Material from Reuters and The Associated Press was used in this report.
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