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

Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden Blu-ray Disc cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden

Original Air Date: November 4, 2012 / Running Time: 90 Minutes / Rating: Not Rated

Director: John Stockwell / Writer: Kendall Lampkin

Cast: Cam Gigandet (Stunner), Anson Mount (Cherry), Freddy Rodriguez (Trench), Alvin "Xzibit" Joiner (Mule), Kathleen Robertson (Vivian Hollins), Eddie Kaye Thomas (Christian), Kenneth Miller (Sauce), Robert Knepper (Lieutenant Commander Johanson), William Fichtner (Mr. Guidry), Jenny Gabrielle (Tricia), Mo Gallini (Interrogator), Suhail Dabbach (Arab Man), Tait Fletcher (D-Punch), Sarah Minnich (Waitress), Kristen Rakes (CIA Analyst), David House (TOC Tech), Alma Sisneros (Trench's Girlfriend), Saleem Watley (Abu Ahmed Al-Kuwaiti), Keith Meriweather (TOC Commander), Yon Kempton (Osama Bin Laden), Jahan Khalili (Khalid)

1.85:1 Widescreen, 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio (English)
Subtitles: English for Hearing Impaired, Spanish / Not Closed Captioned; Extra Subtitled in English
Blu-ray Release Date: January 8, 2013 / Suggested Retail Price: $24.99
Single-sided, single-layered discs (BD-25) / Blue Keepcase
Also available on DVD ($19.98 SRP)

Buy Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden from Amazon.com: Blu-ray DVD

With the movie award season at full blast, Zero Dark Thirty stands as one of the year's two strongest competitors, poised to earn chances to repeat the success director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal had on their last contemporary war drama,
the Oscar-winning The Hurt Locker. But you needn't hit one of the five New York and Los Angeles theaters it's now in or wait for its expansion next week to see the tale of Osama Bin Laden's capture and death dramatized. The TV movie Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden premiered on National Geographic Channel in November and hits DVD and Blu-ray three days before Zero Dark Thirty opens nationwide.

No one is likely to confuse the two movies. Whereas Zero boasts the buzz-attracting pedigree of Bigelow and Boal, Seal Team Six hails from John Stockwell, an actor turned director whose niche has been water-based films like Blue Crush and Into the Blue. Where Zero prompted investigation into whether officials gave the filmmakers classified information, the White House neither confirmed nor denied any of the facts in the screenplay of Seal Team Six's first-time scribe Kendall Lampkin.

Both movies are marked by a lack of star power. Zero's Jessica Chastain, last year's breakout actress, has emerged as a presumed frontrunner in Best Actress races, but the general public is unlikely to recognize most of her cast mates by name or face. Seal Team Six (which is titled Code Name: Geronimo outside the US) runs short on in-demand actors less out of design than necessity. The biggest names in this modestly-budgeted telemovie acquired by typically prestige-driven power producers Bob and Harvey Weinstein belong to Twilight's Cam Gigandet, rapper Xzibit, and American Pie/Harold & Kumar fixture Eddie Kaye Thomas.

You expect a movie that airs on National Geographic shrewdly and shortly before a much-anticipated major motion picture not to be very good, especially from the modest talent assembled here. Furthermore, the timing was suspect in that Seal Team Six debuted on the Sunday before Election Day, suggesting it was a political tool for the Weinstein brothers, both of whom are generous and frequent Obama donors.

Such suspicions appear to be confirmed early on, when for no good reason, clips are included to make Republican presidential candidates John McCain and Mitt Romney look foolish for opposing heavy spending on tracking down the militant mastermind of September 11th and other deadly terrorist attacks. (Interestingly, this needless out-of-place scene was apparently cut from National Geographic's broadcast.) Obama, meanwhile, is cast in heroic light. The movie makes liberal use of official White House footage and photographs of the President from the time of the May 2011 strikes that, perhaps more than anything else, defined the first term of his presidency.

Lieutenant Commander Johanson (Robert Knepper) reminds SEAL Team Six's young leader (Cam Gigandet) of his responsibilities. The CIA perspective is provided by determined analyst Vivian Hollins (Kathleen Robertson) and her cool supervisor Mr. Guidry (William Fichtner).

Fortunately, beyond those touches, politics are left out of this film, allowing Seal Team Six to exceed expectations. The movie aspires to a tone not far from Paul Greengrass' excellent 9/11 docudrama United 93, only without anywhere near such devotion to official facts and records. There is enough detail to indicate that Lampkin has done his research, but also enough personality to recognize creative license and some contrivance.

The team of U.S. Navy SEALs is shown training rigorously for a mission they do not yet know. There is some (plainly fictional) tension between two of the team's leaders, the young family man in charge Stunner (Gigandet) and his resentful long-haired deputy Cherry (Anson Mount, In Her Shoes), who in their own ways continue to mourn the recent death of an integral colleague. Invention like that isn't too intrusive and the movie does an admirable job of developing the men comprising the historic ensemble with meaningful passing remarks and a tasteful scene of Skype video calls to their families.

The subtitular raid doesn't actually arrive until 70 minutes in and it takes just ten minutes of screentime. That affords the movie ample opportunity to place it in context by exploring the intelligence work that precedes it. Presumably more verifiable, scenes like establishing surveillance near Bin Laden's heavily fortified compound and hatching a door-to-door vaccination ruse are thoroughly engaging. Then there are the three individuals, all composites, that appear to be calling the shots back in Washington and answering to Director of the CIA David Petraeus (who is heard but not seen).

Characters like Cherry (Anson Mount) offer reflective testimonials to complement the action. Licensed official White House footage gives President Barack Obama an heroic supporting role.

This movie's answer to Ms. Chastain, Canadian workhorse Kathleen Robertson ("Boss", Hollywoodland) fully embraces the sexy librarian archetype as Vivian Hollins, an analyst consumed with getting Bin Laden, an obsession she describes as a one-way affair.
In limited screentime as her colleague, Eddie Kaye Thomas manages to be everything from comic relief to voice of reason to spouter of exposition. Overseeing both of them is Mr. Guidry, a part William Fichtner imbues with his usual cool authority.

Though undoubtedly a hasty production certain to never be subjected to the kind of high-profile scrutiny that Zero Dark Thirty has, Seal Team Six emerges virtually unscathed from a fact check performed by The Atlantic Wire.

VIDEO and AUDIO

Seal Team Six's Blu-ray boasts good picture and great sound. The 1.85:1 widescreen visuals are clean and sharp, but the limitations of the production's digital video are often evident. Meanwhile, the 5.1 DTS-HD master audio mix contains plenty of engulfing directional gunfire while maintaining appropriate volume levels. English SDH and Spanish subtitles are included.

On location during production, director John Stockwell discusses the making of "Seal Team Six." Computer graphics are layered upon a studly Cam Gigandet on the Blu-ray's main menu montage.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

The only listed bonus feature is an HD making-of featurette, which runs 17 minutes and 30 seconds.
This fine piece collects remarks from the director, screenwriter, cast, a producer, and a military advisor. It also dispenses behind-the-scenes footage from this fast production.

The disc opens with standard definition trailers for Weinstein documentaries Bully and Undefeated, and Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady, none of which are menu-accessible. No Seal Team Six trailer is included.

The menu plays action clips under computer graphics. Unfortunately, the disc doesn't support bookmarks or resume playback. There are no inserts within nor slipcovers outside the standard Blu-ray case.

In one of the goofs the movie is sure to be called out on, the SEALs are fitted with helmet cameras that reports erroneously claimed fed live video to the White House. In fact this Middle Eastern gentleman is not just trying to buy vegetables but to use technology to identify one of the women living in Bin Laden's compound.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

The subject matter alone is enough to make Seal Team Six riveting. This National Geographic Channel premiere doesn't have much to live up to, but it is a pleasant surprise that manages to transcend its unpromising cast and crew to consistently hold your interest. It wisely resists urges to resemble a video game or something as tactically-minded as Act of Valor. It doesn't wallow in patriotism, politics, propaganda, or sentimentality. It knows it will not be viewed as the definitive account of this historic episode, but serves more to whet your appetite for Zero Dark Thirty than to commit the impropriety of trying to steal its thunder.

While I suspect that most interested parties would deem this a one-time viewing at most, I was unexpectedly satisfied by its considerable dramatic value.

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Reviewed January 3, 2013.



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