2008 December: President Obama nominates Hillary Clinton for secretary of state. 2009 Jan. 13: Reports say the clintonemail.com domain was established. Jan. 21: Senate confirms Clinton as secretary of state. March 18: Clinton will later name this as the date she began using a private server for government business. 2012 Sept. 11: Islamic extremists launch […]
“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is the based-on-a-true-story film about the Sept. 11, 2012 Islamic extremist terrorist attacks on the U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya. It’s not a comprehensive tale: it sticks primarily to the personal stories as told by three CIA operators who heroically helped fight off the attackers as dozens of Americans waited for an outside U.S. military rescue that never came. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.
With the movie’s release came a stampede of negative reviews, many published in news or quasi-news publications. Were the facts these “reviewers” portrayed — accurate? Or were they an attempt to controversialize a movie for political reasons?
- “13 Hours” was the #2 highest grossing new movie release in the U.S. its opening week (second only to Ride Along 2).
- It was the #4 movie in the U.S. overall.
- Its opening weekend, “13 Hours” was on target with Paramount studio projections of $20 million, earning $19.22 million for the four-day weekend.
- Audience reviews were overwhelmingly positive, hovering around 87% on RottenTomatoes.com. Compare that to 58% for “Ride Along 2.”
- Of the “13 Hours” opening, Variety stated, “The wartime drama took in a respectable $900,000 at 1,995 locations on Thursday night.”
But a flurry of negative reviews seemed disconnected from those facts. Anthony D’Alessandro declared on Deadline.com that “13 Hours” opened “lower than expected.” Gary Susman on Moviefone.com oddly claimed that “13 Hours” “struck out at the box office.”
Judy Kurtz of The Hill constructed her own reality in a blog entitled, “Benghazi film flops at the box office.” The blog linked to, but seemed utterly to ignore, a Hollywood Reporter article that touted “13 Hours” as the #4 film in the U.S.
The liberal Salon.com’s headline was also contrary to the facts at hand. Its review by left-wing writer Amanda Marcotte was titled “Audiences reject ’13 Hours’: Big blow for the right’s desperate quest for Clinton’s Benghazi smoking gun — it’s just not there.” (Yes, that’s the actual headline.)
Prior to its release, left-wing writer Alyssa Rosenberg portrayed “13 Hours” as “boring” in The Washington Post and sprinkled her review with tried-and-true astroturf language such as “conspiracy theories” and “obsessed” (Rosenberg’s previous work is reviewed in a separate Fact Check here). It should be pointed out that The Washington Post did not universally pan the film. For example, Michael O’Sullivan called it “gripping” and gave it a positive review.
Vox.com, the left-wing website headed by a liberal blogger named Ezra Klein, gave “13 Hours” an extensive, negative review…after seeing only the trailer. “Even the trailer for Michael Bay’s Benghazi movie is patronizing and dishonest,” wrote Vox’s Max Fisher. He then goes on to incorrectly portray the idea that rescuers could have helped as a “myth.” (Note: Fisher has previously been flagged by The Washington Post for “embarrassing errors” in his writings.)
In terms of opinions, people obviously can form wildly different views on the same film. It’s even possible that some genuinely find a film “boring,” whereas a majority of audiences are describing it as “gripping,” with theatre responses ranging from awestruck silence to standing ovations.
From a success standpoint, “13 Hours” had nowhere near the opening of other Michael Bay blockbusters such as his “Transformers” films. In that respect, it’s fair to say “13 Hours” is not in the same class. However, it was never projected to earn that sort of money. By way of comparison, the “13 Hours” opening was in the same range as “The Wolf of Wall Street” and is approaching “The Big Short,” which was released a month earlier. Neither is considered to be a flop.
It’s inaccurate to claim that “13 Hours” is a “flop” or box office disaster. Audience reviews, box office rankings and earnings tell a different story. The film was the #2 opener and #4 movie nationally. It met studio earnings projections. It has high audience review scores.
In the end, there’s no better example of astroturf: partisan spinners joined in a misleading attempt discredit the film and discourage audiences from attending. For falsely claiming “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” to be an economic failure its first week, the reviewers who did so (apparently with political motives) are awarded Three Little Devils.