Bodyguards: Secret Lives from the Watchtower Explores Private Security Like Never Before

Having attended the occasional event as a member of the Hollywood press, I’m on a few press lists for movie releases. I typically pirate my movies, but decided to check out Bodyguards because it explores a topic I’ve always had a hobbyist interest in: security.

Here’s the trailer:

Writer and director Jaren Hayman explores the lives of bodyguards and protection agents through several different intertwining stories over the course of 93 minutes.

Justin Bieber’s Director of Security, Whitey Bulger’s protector, Blackwater security agents, and bodyguards for 50 Cent, Lil Wayne, and Nelson Mandela all have a chance to tell their story in front of the camera to provide a peek into the world of protection and security like never before.

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As you can probably tell from the picture above, many people working in private security are both large and male. But as illustrated several times throughout the film, neither of those traits is necessary.

An all-female security agency is shown to prove a point echoed by many of the males in the film – preparation and taking control of situations in a calm manner are what really keep you alive in this business. And it is a business.

Private security is a multi-billion dollar industry, and this movie covers only the personal side of it. There’s also the technology side, which is better explored in Deep Web, the documentary of Tor, piracy, and The Silk Road.

Bodyguards actually makes for a great companion piece to Deep Web in that it helps paint the picture of the logistical difficulties faced when providing security on the ground of any major event.

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Bieber’s bodyguard explains how difficult it can be to keep a crowd of thousands of screaming 13-year-old girls at bay, a problem that led the pop star to scold his fans more than a few times for their behavior. Meanwhile 50’s bodyguard tells the story of running at a shooter as he was popping his trunk to reach for a gun used to shoot up Missy Elliott’s tour bus.

Regardless of who the celebrity is, it seems they all have their security issues, and it takes a special kind of person to be willing to put their lives on the line like that. Of course, these are just the celebrity bodyguards, and they don’t appreciate the distinction of celebrity. When you risk your life for someone, it ultimately doesn’t matter who that someone is.

Nelson Mandela’s personal security is divided between black and white – two sides that clashed viciously during South Africa’s struggles leading up to Mandela’s leadership role. You start to realize these men are truly soldiers fighting for a cause that’s greater than the race wars they were involved in.

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Blackwater is known for its private security efforts during the war on terror and for chilling video of a car full of their agents being beaten, burned, ripped apart, dragged through the streets, and hung. No matter how well trained you are, when facing a mob, your options are very limited, and we’re taken on a ride along through a practice emergency situation with these highly skilled agents.

Overall Secret Lives from the Watchtower is an interesting movie that provides context to what the men and women working private security face in their careers. The narration tries a little too hard to be edgy at times, but it maintains the level of action and interest throughout the film.

I wish it were a bit longer and included Secret Service, especially being released after a tumultuous presidential election year. I almost feel like it should be a TV series that lets us get deeper into the industry. Of course, that’s probably a logistical nightmare, especially with operational security being so necessary to successful protection operations these days.

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I also feel like the film completely ignores many of the tactics used by security professionals to sweep an area. They show the occasional physical sweep and explain working with event security, but what about securing these people in their homes?

At one point, you’re left realizing these people spend their holidays with the people they’re guarding, but they never really explain much about what it takes to secure a client at home in today’s digital world. These types of challenges are what people need to see and understand.

It’s almost as though we’re only being tempted with a surface-level explanation but not trusted with the full picture.

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The scene with the female agency led by Jackie Davis walking us through a physical sweep in London prior to their principal’s arrival in a venue. Advance security is vital, and she points out several areas of concern.

Beyond that, we’re the enemy from their perspective, so there’s not much they’re going to tell us.

Final Thoughts

Bodyguards: Secret Lives from the Watchtower provides several perspectives of what it’s like working in private security for a variety of different clients. Whether celebrities, political figures, or warzone security, the basics remain the same.

Although the movie doesn’t dive into some of the cool hi-tech toys and computerized surveillance that helps keep people safe, it does a great job of framing the personal aspect of the industry.

If you ever wondered what it’s like being a part of a celebrity’s entourage or keeping a head of state safe after civil war, this movie is a great start to find out. Find it in theaters December 2, 2016.

Final Grade: B-

Versability

Brian Penny is a former Business Analyst and Operations Manager at Bank of America turned whistleblower, troll, and freelance writer.

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