Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden Blu-ray Review

The biggest news story of 2011 was the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, which left the al-Qaeda leader and five others dead. It was bound to inspire numerous dramatizations. Aside from the New York Times bestseller No Easy Day and the Oscar-nominated ZERO DARK THIRTY (click the link to read our review), there is SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN, a television movie which aired on the National Geographic Channel. The first two were/are popular for a reason. SEAL TEAM SIX merely covers the necessary bases to get by as a general overview of the operation.

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At the heart of the raid is senior counter-intelligence threat analyst Vivian Hollins (Kathleen Robertson, better known as Kelsey Grammer’s personal aide on Starz’s BOSS). Not all of the cards are in the deck and any botch or falsity would mean significant blows to the country, but she, citing the 2001 attempt in Tora Bora, doesn’t want to miss the chance to kill bin Laden again.

The SEALs are contacted. There’s “Stunner” (Cam Gigendet), “Cherry” (Anson Mount), “Mule” (rapper Xzibit, billed as Alvin Joiner in hopes you might take him seriously), “Trench” (Freddy Rodriguez), and “Sauce” (Kenneth Miller). Guess which ones survive the mission.

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In order for the movie to work, the sequence of events leading up to the third act must be compelling enough to keep us from dozing off before the raid. But director John Stockwell (torture porn entry TURISTAS; the Halle Berry action-thriller DARK TIDE) doesn’t have the skills to do that, and so we’re treated to a by-the-books rendition, a production that had far less interest in offering viewers proper drama and complexity than it did beating Kathryn Bigelow to the punch and helping Obama win another four years.

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SEAL TEAM SIX aired one month before Bigelow’s take hit theaters and exactly two days before the election, which even liberals could admit is an awfully suspicious release date. The movie clearly has an agenda to it and so is, as a result, tasteless at times. (An example: the movie employs real footage of various national and international bombings and attacks, including those on September 11th, 2001.)

Documentary techniques like that (and other devices, like the inclusion of faux reflective interviews and archival clips of everything from air strikes to the 2008 debates) don’t serve the movie. It’s clear Stockwell is trying to add a level of realism to his movie, but it’s so misguided that the whole thing comes off as tacky and, at times, inconsiderate.

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This (along with the “From Producers of THE HURT LOCKER” stamp on the promotional art) illustrates a supreme lack of confidence from the filmmakers. In the end, SEAL TEAM SIX is just another simple-minded TV movie. It is no more the go-to dramatization of the killing of Osama bin Laden than Lifetime’s LIZ & DICK is the definitive portrait of Elizabeth Taylor.

BLU-RAY REVIEW

Video: 1.85:1 in 1080p with MPEG-4 AVC codec. Much of SEAL TEAM SIX has a rather bland look to it, with a limited color palette and basic government interiors. The video transfer reflects all of that, plus exposes the made-for-TV production values (which are notably better than most of Lifetime’s canon, but still clearly restricted).

Audio: English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The audio transfer provides atmosphere to the settings and is intense during the raid sequence.

The Making of SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN (17:30) uses interviews and clips to cover the actual raid, the approach to the story, the cast’s training, and more.

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