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Bin Laden at the Movies: 'SEAL Team Six' Airing on NatGeo & Netflix Before Election; Plus Bigelow's 'Zero Dark Thirty' and Tell-All 'No Easy Day'

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood October 5, 2012 at 2:15PM

Sorry, Mitt, but NatGeo is airing feature film "SEAL Team 6" on November 4, two days before the election. The film is a re-creation of the events, authorized by President Obama, that lead to the killing of the terrorist leader and, as the NYT puts it, serves as "the crowning national security achievement of President Obama’s term in office."
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Zero Dark Thirty 1

Sorry, Mitt, but National Geographic is airing feature film "SEAL Team 6: The Raid on Osama bin Laden" on November 4, two days before the election. The film is a re-creation of the events, authorized by President Obama, that lead to the killing of the terrorist leader and, as the New York Times puts it, serves as "the crowning national security achievement of President Obama’s term in office." A day later on November 5 the film will be streaming on Netflix. NatGeo states the scheduling is not political, but rather "commercially opportunistic."

The NYT states the film sticks to the facts and was vetted by experts including a retired Navy Seal, a CIA operative and a bin Laden historian.  The Weinsteins took rights to the film while at Cannes before making a deal with NatGeo. You can watch the trailer here.

EARLIER, September 4: "Zero Dark Thirty" will be a hot topic long before it hits theaters December 19, because it documents the assault and killing of Osama bin Laden -- arguably a hallmark of President Obama's first four years in office. Although the film will not be screened before this fall's election, and despite filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal insisting that there's no political agenda or depiction of Obama in the film, it's hard to view the film as pure entertainment -- especially with the release of "No Easy Day." The new book, written by Matt Bissonnette, one of the Navy SEALs that caught Bin Laden on May 2, 2011, was published without the knowledge of the Pentagon, in what The Daily Beast describes as "tantamount to a sneak attack."

Bissonnette's tell-all of the bin Laden attack, which was sent to bookstores and on Amazon by the time the government got it hands on it, doesn't entirely match the White House's version of the events--notably whether bin Laden posed a genuine threat when he was killed. Historically, the Department of Defense has been able to intervene in the distribution of books which could compromise top-secret information, but it's apparently too late for "No Easy Day."

It's a tricky wicket for the White House to reprimand or contest Bissonnette's book, given that this year's "Act of Valor" was produced with the help of the Navy SEALs, and glamorizes America's armed forces for potential recruits. There's more than one version of the truth, it seems. And certainly more than one objective of any published or filmed account of how the nearly-ten years post-9/11 came to a satisfying if not controversial conclusion.

So, will "No Easy Day" contend with the events as displayed by "Zero Dark Thirty"? Too soon to tell. Bigelow and Boal, in their first interview about the film, told EW that the film is a study on the behind-the-scenes players who orchestrated the attack, not a celebration of the President. Regardless, the film has ignited Republicans who question whether the filmmakers were allowed access to classified information. Bigelow and Boal have so far declined to comment on specifics, wanting to protect their sources. The film can't avoid taking a stance, but we can expect it to be more in the style of Bigelow's 2010 Oscar winner "The Hurt Locker" and less like recruitment or campaign propoganda. With the filmmakers remaining tight-lipped, "Zero Dark Thirty" may prove to be a sneak attack of its own--but on what?

Watch the teaser for "Zero Dark Thirty" here.

This article is related to: Kathryn Bigelow, The Hurt Locker, Zero Dark Thirty, Politics


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.