Action movie mogul Michael Bay's latest bid for critical respectability may come at Hillary Clinton's expense.
Bay, who has been the brains behind blockbuster franchises including "Transformers" and "Bad Boys" has turned the tragic 2012 terrorist attack on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi into a big budget thriller. And if its first trailer is any indication, it won't depict the former secretary of state's handling of the incident in a flattering light.
"13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi" -- which is based on a non-partisan, non-fiction book by Mitchell Zuckoff -- aims to be a ripped-from-the-headlines portrayal of the behind-the-scenes action within the national security apparatus, like Kathryn Bigelow's acclaimed hit film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, "Zero Dark Thirty." However, some of the trailer's viewers have noted that the film's seemingly jingoistic tone could point to a more overtly political agenda.
Vox's Max Fisher, for example, refers to the trailer's pronounced portrayal of bureaucrats -- ostensibly taking orders from the State Department -- stymieing the efforts of the film's heroic soldiers who are attempting to rescue imperiled Americans.
"Americans care about what really happened in Benghazi, and they should: it was a significant event for U.S. foreign policy and U.S. politics. But it's been confused by three years of partisan spin, mud-fights, and conspiracy theories. Americans have to sort through a lot of noise to get to the truth," writes Max Fisher for Vox. "That is an important issue, and Michael Bay's plan to convert it into popcorn sales seems unlikely to help the public understand what really happened. Indeed, the trailer alone manages to be a source of dangerously misleading misinformation on Benghazi."
The trailer also advances a long-refuted claim that Clinton sent an order to troops to "stand down" amid the siege on the embassy.
The film is set to open January 15, 2016 -- the same day "American Sniper" expanded into theaters nationwide. And as Forbes contributor Scott Mendelson notes, that timing is far from coincidental.
"I’m sure we’ll see Paramount, director Bay, and stars John Krasinski and James Badge Dale stressing the non-political nature of the story, how it’s about the bravery of the men who fought regardless of who was to blame, etc, etc. But that won’t mean that this film won’t be something of a lightning rod basically a month away from the Iowa caucuses which will basically kick off the primary election process for the 2016 presidential race," said Mendelson in a column on the trailer.
Although Bay himself has never been publicly affiliated with any particular political ideology, his films have a tendency to traffic in neo-conservative themes. As Asawin Suebsaeng pointed out in a Mother Jones article last year, with the possible outlier of the 1996 film "The Rock," nearly all of Bay's films could be interpreted as coded odes to the right.
"Yes, I am a political person, and I have my views about America," Bay told the magazine in 2013. "I'm very proud of my country; obviously it's going through a lot of turmoil, and we have a very ineffectual government … It doesn't matter at all [whether I'm liberal or conservative]—it's not a part of what I do. I don't feel the need to go out and tell people what to believe politically."
Four Americans were killed in the Benghazi attacks and Clinton, currently the Democratic front-runner for president, is expected to testify publicly on her role at congressional hearings in October.