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Seal Team 6: The Raid on Osama bin Laden (2012)

March 3, 2013

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written by: Kendall Lampkin

produced by: Nicholas Chartier, Zev Foreman and Tony Mark

directed by: John Stockwell

rating: unrated 

runtime: 91 min.

U.S. release date: November 4, 2012 (limited theatrical release, then aired on the National Geographic Channel)

DVD/Blu-ray release date: January 8, 2013

 

In the midst of the recent awards season, director Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty” received all sorts of Oscar buzz from Best Picture to Jessica Chastain for Best Actress. It’s a movie I liked but didn’t love, but I can appreciate the quality from beginning to end. The story of the hunt for Osama Bin Laden is a massive undertaking which ‘Thirty’ does well at tackling. How about a smaller budget straight-to-DVD version of the same story? Uh-oh, this could be bad, but here we go with 2012’s “Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden”.  

As the years pass since the 9/11 attacks, the CIA, including an agent named Vivian (Kathleen Robertson), continue to search for clues that will ultimately lead to terrorist Osam Bin Laden. When a promising clue leads to a fortress-like compound in Pakistan, two field agents (apparently unlisted/uncredited in the cast listing) set up surveillance on the compound in hopes of figuring out for sure if bin Laden is in there. As the clues comes together, Seal Team 6, including young team leader, Stunner (Cam Gigandet), and veteran right-hand man, Cherry (Anson Mount), prepare to lead a raid to take out bin Laden should the clues and identity come together as planned.

 

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Originally shown on National Geographic TV (I didn’t know that channel existed) just a few days before the November 2012 election, ‘Raid’ is impossible to view without thinking of Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty”. It tells the same, exact story, right down to the division of the story among a handful of different stories. Where ‘Zero’ uses Chastain’s Maya as a link to all the stories, “Raid” has no real unifying hook other than the ultimate goal of hunting down bin Laden. It has a docu-drama feel to the too-short 91 minute movie, utilizing stock footage of the war in Afghanistan with election footage, some President Obama soundbites, quick editing of C.I.A. headquarters in Langley, and general B-roll.

Don’t be confused though. While the title says this is a movie about  Seal Team 6 and its raid for bin Laden, it’s not exclusively that story. It certainly devotes more time to the team than “Zero” did, but it’s not just their story. The actual Team 6 story is pretty standard men-on-a-mission focus. Along with Gigandet’s Stunner and Mount’s Cherry, we’re introduced to Mule (rapper Xzibit), Trench (Freddy Rodriguez), and Sauce (Kenneth Miller), and Lieutenant Commander (Robert Knepper). It’s pretty typical stuff. The group bickers, fights, argues, makes fun of each other. The rivalry dynamic between Stunner and Cherry is hackneyed at best and feels like something you will have seen in countless other movies. The weird part? Beyond the rivalry thing, the men on a men angle, the specialists working together works surprisingly well. Kudos to first-time screenwriter Kendall Lampkin for getting that element correct.

 

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Some scenes among the team stood out in a positive sense for me. An early mission in the desert is well-choreographed and full of tension with a surprising capper. The raid itself in the finale is nothing spectacular (especially having seen “Zero Dark Thirty” where that scene is perfection). Instead, it’s the moments that are more personal that work. Mule and Trench talking about the mission near an airfield and how they ended up as Seals is well-written and well-acted. It’s the definition of clichéd, but a scene where the Seals video-message with their families right before the mission is authentic and emotional in its simplicity. Anything new in that formula? Nope, but when the story has a finale that EVERYONE knows where it’s going, there has to be something along the route to keep you interested.

Of the three storylines, the weakest is the C.I.A. angle. Robertson’s Vivian — quite the looker — wears huge-rimmed glasses a 1960s librarian wouldn’t have worn, apparently to dull down her looks (I guess?). She’s joined by the always reliable William Fichtner as Mr. Guidry, a C.I.A. supervisor, and Eddie Kaye Thomas as a fellow agent with a different stance on the bin Laden hunt. These are the scenes that have the pseudo-documentary feel to them, and not for the better as they lack any real sense or urgency or energy. While I can’t find their names listed in the cast, the third storyline of the two agents on the ground in Pakistan near the compound is more compelling — by far — than the C.I.A. angle.

I’ll be giving this TV-movie the same rating as I did “Zero Dark Thirty”, but I’m not saying they’re equally good or even on the same page. Many reviewers criticized the left-wing angle this movie takes, its lack of military accuracy on a ridiculously minute angle, or any number of other things. The moral of the story is what I go into every movie with. Did I like it? Even a little? Yes, I enjoyed this one throughout. Regardless of your thoughts, it would make an interesting companion piece to watch with Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty”.

 

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RATING: ***

 

 

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