13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi is the latest film from director Michael Bay, and it’s opening this Friday. The director has taken a break from the loud and expensive world of the Transformers franchise to tell the story of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012, a story that has been consistently criticized, debated, and politicized. But Bay doesn’t see it that way and is not at all afraid to deal with what political backlash may come his way. He views it as a simple story of Americans who became heroes.
In the fall of 2015, Paramount vice chairman Rob Moore told the Hollywood Reporter that 13 Hours is a story about heroes as opposed to politics.
“My mother said, ‘Don’t do this movie,'” Michael Bay said in an interview, as reported by the Los Angeles Times. “She thought it was too political a story. ‘They’ll rake you over the coals,’ she said. And I told her. ‘It’s not political. It’s a story of Americans who became heroes.'”
John Krasinski, famous for playing the role of Jim on the American version of The Office, is in the film as Jack Silva. The character is one of the contractors, along with an anonymous former Navy SEAL and a real-life member of the Annex Security Team, who shared stories for the 2014 book 13 Hours: The Inside Account of What Really Happened in Benghazi, written by Mitchell Zuckoff, a Boston University journalism professor. Actor Pablo Schreiber of Orange Is the New Black plays Kris “Tanto” Paronto, Dominic Fumusa plays John “Tig” Tiegen, and Max Martini plays Mark “Oz” Geist.
“We’d be naive if we didn’t think this would be politicized,” said Krasinski. “Look at ‘American Sniper’ and what a Rorschach test it became — you can take any piece of art to support your side. But for the guys on the ground, there was no politics. There was just an objective. A simplicity, even. They got the call, and they went.”
The 2012 attack on the U.S. Embassy located in Benghazi, Libya, continues to be a big issue for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, although the film itself will not make any references to her. Clinton was the U.S. Secretary of State at the time of the terrorist assault on the 11-year anniversary of September 11. The assault caused the deaths of Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three others. Clinton had harsh criticism thrown her way from Republicans for security lapses and was later called to testify on Capitol Hill in 2015.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi may have a $20 million-plus opening over the holiday weekend, according to box-office tracking. American Sniper opened during the same time in 2015, earning $107.2 million on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend.
13 Hours is not going to be the only action film over the weekend. Ride Along 2, starring Kevin Hart and Ice Cube, has a decent chance to beat the reigning king of the box office for the last few weeks, Star Wars: The Force Awakens. It might earn $40 million-plus during its debut, but analysts suggest the film will land somewhere north of $30 million. In 2014, the first Ride Along filmed opened to $48.6 million over the same holiday weekend.
“I may have my political views, but I’m not going to use this story to help support a political candidate or a political side because that makes me no better than the far right or far left that are trying to bastardize the story,” Paronto said of 13 Hours. “Here’s the truth. If you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But this is what it is.”
Alejandro G. Inarritu’s critically acclaimed The Revenant, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio, may be some competition for 13 Hours. Inarritu’s film looks like it’s going to be staying in the top five, with it opening nationwide to $39.8 million last weekend, not to mention the Golden Globes for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor it received recently.
13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi opens in theaters this Friday.
[Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images for Paramount Pictures]