Michael Bay, known for four “Transformers” films and an action-romance about the Pearl Harbor attack, is the man behind “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” which comes out this week, and which, according to observers, could peel the Band-Aid off a wound that Hillary Clinton largely covered during her day-long testimony before the congressional committee investigating the 2012 incident.
The movie, which was filmed at location in Malta and Morocco from April 2015 looks to tap into the good performance in the month of January by war-related movies including Lone Survivor, American Sniper,and Zero Dark Thirty,
13 Hours will tell whether the harsh realities of a 2012 attack on a United States diplomatic compound in Libya are the stuff of transition for Mr. Bay, and cinematic catharsis for viewers whose understanding of the assault, in which Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed, has been blurred by partisan politics since the night it occurred.
One of five survivors who collaborated on both Mr. Mitchell Zuckoff’s book 13 Hours and Mr. Bay’s film, Mr. Geist, said he and his peers hoped the movie would help close rather than reopen debate about political motives in Washington’s lack of readiness for and response to a 13-hour attack that began on Sept. 11, 2012.
“The political side of it needs to focus on the truth, and not focus on the spin. People need to listen to the people on the ground.” Said Mr. Geist
While Mr. Geist did not address specific failures in the official response to the attack, the film bluntly portrays several. The film’s operatives openly question inadequate security measures at the diplomatic compound in advance of the attack. C.I.A. staffers deride and disregard the operatives, and play down the dangers in Libya. Requested air support never arrives.
In what might be one political sore spot, a printed crawl at the picture’s end points out that in the years after the attack, Libya became a stronghold for the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL.
Conservatives hope the movie humanizes the deaths of four Americans and exposes to the story a wide swath of voters who don’t regularly watch Fox News. Hillary Clinton, who served as Secretary of State during the raid, does not appear in the movie, but critics say the whole episode raises questions about her effectiveness as Secretary of State.
Allies of the Democratic frontrunner acknowledge the release may gin up the conservative base but express confidence that it won’t meaningfully impact Democratic primary voters ahead of the Feb. 1 Iowa caucuses.
The Republican National Committee has press releases ready to send and plans other tactics to message about the movie, sources say. An extended trailer ran during the last GOP debate. Talking heads like Hugh Hewitt received early screening copies, which has helped generate buzz on conservative radio. “It’s very riveting, and it’s very damning, though she is never mentioned, nor is the president,” Hewitt said last week. “It is utterly damning of the Obama administration.”
“We’ve always viewed Benghazi as a window into Secretary Clinton’s poor judgment and bad decision-making while leading the State Department,” said America Rising PAC executive director Colin Reed. “And because it’s coming in the form of a production from a major film studio in Hollywood, Clinton and her allies will be unable to deploy their usual defense mechanism, which is simply dismissing any perceived questioning of her leadership as right-wing propaganda. That argument just won’t hold water.”