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Monday, December 31, 2012

SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN -- Blu-Ray review by porfle



A fairly interesting and involving fact-based war flick that first aired on the National Geographic Channel, SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN (2012) moves like it's on a mission to cover all the bases without lingering on anything long enough to either get boring or go very deep. 

The device of intercutting interview segments into the action speeds up exposition and character development in a rather superficial way, while actual footage of terrorist attacks (including still-disturbing shots of the stricken Twin Towers) reminds us of what's at stake in this quest to take out the infamous al-Qaeda leader.

We meet Seal Team Six during a mission in Afghanistan in which an ambush takes the life of a member named "D-Punch" (Tait Fletcher), then follow their intensive training for what will turn out to be the big one.  The main characters include young team leader Stunner (Cam Gigandet, PANDORUM, TWILIGHT) and his friendly rival Cherry (Anson Mount, HICK, STRAW DOGS), easygoing but tough family guy Mule (Xzibit, "Pimp My Ride", CONSPIRACY THEORY), and PLANET TERROR's Freddy Rodríguez as Trench.  The story lingers on their personal accounts and long-distance exchanges with family members just enough to make us vaguely familiar with them. 

On the civilian side, CIA analyst Vivian Hollins (Kathleen Robertson, HOLLYWOODLAND) explains why she's obsessed with taking out Bin Laden as new intelligence gives his possible location as a fortified compound in Pakistan.  Much of the film's drama centers on the CIA's attempts to verify this intel and the decision whether or not to raid the compound without conclusive evidence, which, as history has shown, could have disastrous results. 

The latter point allows the filmmakers to establish President Barack Obama as one of the film's major characters, through extensive stock footage and speech excerpts.  So much so, in fact, that the whole thing begins to resemble a reverent campaign ad at times, with Obama coming off as the wise, assertive military tactician whose "go get 'em" attitude is opposed by the likes of John McCain, Mitt Romney, and (whoops) Joe Biden.  Obama's generous inclusion here, in fact, even rivals the pervasive presence of Bill Clinton in the sci-fi thriller CONTACT. 

As Seal Team Six trains for their mission with mock invasion scenarios, we become accustomed to the rapid-fire editing and fluid camera moves of director John Stockwell's engaging visual style.  This allows him to depict the events of the big night in a way that reflects the chaos and confusion while keeping the action easy to follow, with a bit of the flavor of Ridley Scott's BLACK HAWK DOWN but on a lesser scale. 

Stockwell, also an actor familiar to those who remember his starring role in John Carpenter's CHRISTINE, gives much of the film that distinctive black-and-blue look seen so often these days and uses lots of cross-cutting among various participants in the mission to build suspense.  Once the raid begins, the film is riveting, conveying a real sense of the overwhelming danger and intrigue of the actual events.  As far as the film's historical accuracy goes (the fact that it's highly-fictionalized is pretty obvious) I'll have to leave that to the historical experts. 

Performances are adequate with a few standouts, including Robert Knepper (TRANSPORTER 3, HITMAN) as the team's Lieutenant Commander and William Fichtner being his usual awesome self as CIA boss Guidry.  An outstanding techno score helps keep things moving along at a brisk pace. 

The Blu-Ray disc from Anchor Bay is widescreen with Dolby Digital 5.1 sound and subtitles in English and Spanish.  Included is a behind-the-scenes featurette.

SEAL TEAM SIX: THE RAID ON OSAMA BIN LADEN isn't on the same scale as the epic war films but it easily rises above the usual made-for-TV fare.  With a subject of such major importance, any lesser treatment would be conspicuously cheap.  Here, however, we get a modest war film that's both satisfying and, given the personal feelings each viewer brings to the experience, somewhat cathartic. 


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