Sept. 11, 2001, is a date that defines American history, maybe the most impactful day since the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese raid on Pearl Harbor.
For some reason, storytellers have avoided telling the story of the man who led those attacks. There are only two movies about the hunt for Osama bin Laden, “Zero Dark Thirty” and “Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden.”
Pearl Harbor inspired some of the most popular movies about World War II, including Oscar Best Picture winner “From Here to Eternity” (1953) with Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift and Frank Sinatra. Don’t miss out on the excellent “In Harm’s Way”(1965) with John Wayne and Kirk Douglas.
There’s also Michael Bay’s controversial yet incredibly successful “Pearl Harbor” (2001) with Ben Affleck and Josh Hartnett. “Tora! Tora! Tora!” is a 1970 American-Japanese co-production that features an epic recreation of the attacks. And Steven Spielberg’s comedy, “1941,” aims to find the humor in how mainland Americans reacted to the attacks.
In 1978, ABC television ran an epic miniseries called “Pearl” that recycled battle footage from “Tora! Tora! Tora!” and amped up the soap opera backstories. Americans watched by the millions.
That was followed quickly by an NBC miniseries remake of “From Here to Eternity,” a presentation so successful that it led to a 1980 television series with William Devane and Kim Basinger that only ran for 11 episodes.
That’s not counting the dozens of movies and shows like both versions of “Midway” that use Pearl Harbor as a critical plot point that sets in motion the real story they’re trying to tell.
So, where are the Al Qaeda stories? Where’s the 10-part miniseries that follows the rise of the Islamist movement in the final decades of the 20th century? We’ve got “The Looming Tower,” the 2018 Hulu miniseries that details how the rivalry between the FBI and CIA led to the intelligence failures of 2001, but there have to be multiple versions of that story left to tell.
Seriously, any low-budget producer with access to a few helicopters could build a house in the New Mexico desert and put their own quick-and-dirty spin on the 2011 raid that killed the Al Qaeda leader.
It’s been 10 years, and we’ve only had two attempts to tell the story, both made in a rush after the Navy SEAL team completed its mission. We’ve had years and years for filmmakers to come up with new angles on the story based on facts that have emerged slowly in the years since bin Laden’s death.
How about a miniseries about the internal workings of the White House in the weeks leading to the raid? That’s a suspenseful, ticking-clock story that would rivet an audience if they told it the right way.
Still, we’ve got two versions of the raid that took out bin Laden. One’s focused on the intelligence that led to the raid, and the other’s more about the operators who carried it out. They actually make for quite a good double feature.
Zero Dark Thirty (2012)
“Zero Dark Thirty” is the prestige movie about the modern war on terror from director Kathryn Bigelow and writer Mark Boal, the team behind Best Picture Oscar winner “The Hurt Locker.” “ZDT” won an Oscar for Sound Editing and also was nominated for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress for Jessica Chastain.
Chastain plays a young CIA analyst who’s determined to use limited intelligence resources to tease out the location where bin Laden has been hiding. It’s more about her conviction that her instincts are correct than it is about the team who carried out the mission.
Still, Bigelow’s version of the actual raid is absolutely riveting and another example of why she’s one of the most gifted action movie directors working today.
Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden
This movie originally was called “Code Name: Geronimo” and meant to be released as a theatrical movie when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival just a year after the real-life events. Produced by Nicolas Chartier, who also produced “The Hurt Locker,” the film became the first fictional film to premiere on the National Geographic Channel just two days before the 2012 presidential election.
“Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden” was directed by John Stockwell, who may be best known for playing “Cougar” in the original “Top Gun.” “Prison Break” stars William Fichtner and Robert Knepper play a CIA official and SEAL lieutenant commander, respectively.
The movie lacks the polish that we get from “Zero Dark Thirty,” but you also get a lot more of a focus on the SEALs and military action.
Both movies are available to rent on digital or for purchase on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD. You also can buy “Zero Dark Thirty” on 4K UHD disc.
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