“An inside look at what it’s like to protect the rich, famous, and powerful as told by elite bodyguards from across the globe.” Narrated by Kim Coates, this quote perfectly sums up the new documentary Bodyguards: Secret Lives from the Watchtower. If anyone thinks being a bodyguard is a glamorous occupation or lifestyle, this film will change their mind. It is a captivating documentary that touches on a wide variety of fields; from entertainers to politics (are those still separate fields now?).
Produced and directed by Jared Hayman, this documentary tells five stories among five different fields, all dealing with the industry of protection. Among the clients whose bodyguards are showcased are politician Nelson Mandela, rappers 50 Cent and Lil Wayne, gangster Whitey Bulger, American ambassadors under Blackwater, and entertainer Justin Bieber. Anyone that does not know these people will get a brief pop culture/history lesson to understand why it was important for them to get bodyguards. On the other hand, if anyone does not like one or more of these people, the stories do not fully focus on them and they rotate, so the focus does not remain on them for long.
The film is mostly told from the bodyguards themselves, like Anton, who is “one of the most well-known and respected bodyguards in the business”. Anton went from being a bodyguard to starting his own company, Guardian Protection, and his segments focus on how he progressed along the way. Justin Bieber (and his manager and other crew members) participated a bit in his bodyguards stories, talking about the increasing need for security as his celebrity status blossomed. James “Whitey” Bulger’s story focuses on the security challenges as informants are revealed in crime organizations with some firsthand accounts from people that spent time in prison.
Tairon Coronel and Shamir Bolivar, owners of Atlas Tactical and the Shadow Group, respectively, discuss the challenges of diplomatic protection in other countries. They train from an “undisclosed location” if Florida and among their credentials is protection detail for the likes of President Obama and Former President Bush. They also went to Iraq and other places that most people would not want to go. And the last, but not least, prominent figure to feature in the film is Nelson Mandela. Rory Stein talks about when Mandela merged two protection groups, one all-white, and the other all-black, leading by example.
Bodyguards sacrifice everything for the sake of their client(s). The stories featured in this documentary are not glamorous or exciting. They show why bodyguards are necessary and why nobody should aspire to be one. There is talk of death including friends, soldiers, gangsters, and Mandela himself. Some of them discuss the family that they rarely get to see or the life that they could not lead while being a bodyguard (for example, they still have Christmas, but it is not their Christmas). One guy even says he advises people to go to school and stay away if they seek his advice for becoming a bodyguard. That seems to be the message of the film.
Overall, it is an insightful and well-filmed documentary. Anyone with even a passing interest into the lives of bodyguards will probably find no better insight than this.