Osama Bin Laden eluded the entire world for almost ten years – arguably the biggest disappearing act since Bilbo Baggins’ ring-aided departure at his 111th birthday party – but this May a group of crack American Navy Seals broke into his rather shabby compound and killed him in his bed. This mesmerizing documentary from C4 provides an intimate look at the tense and uncertain period of time preceding the killing of the planet’s most wanted man.
Unlike most of the other 9/11 gubbins clogging our TV schedules this week, this doc contains plenty of fresh material, none more impressive than exclusive interviews with the President. Obama and a host of essential counter-terrorism experts reveal that the trail had run cold until 2009 when the White House decreed this game of terrorist man-hunt as the nation’s top priority.
Bin Laden: Shoot To Kill gathers momentum as we are shown how the CIA tracked couriers to the Abbottabad compound and initiated patterns of life surveillance. Author John Gresham tells us that ‘one itty bitty screw up, and that’s all it takes’ and this ‘screw-up’ is made by The Kuwaiti – a super courier for the Al Qaeda.
The documentary is littered with dramatic re-creations which are particularly cinematic when the US Navy Seals eventually storm the compound. However, some scenes could actually belong to a black comedy in the mould of Four Lions. A group of Pakistani children whack a cricket ball into the compound and timidly ask, ‘can we have our ball back please?’, to which the Kuwaiti brothers respond by burning the ball and shoving cash at the children.
Another genuinely funny re-enactment depicts Bin Laden with a woman. The woman is combing black hair dye into the beard of this tyrannical mass-murderer as if she’s an extra in an advert (presumably Osama’s worth it). Despite these comic moments, director Goodison ratchets up the tension as Obama faces ‘a quintessential presidential decision’ which turns out to be ‘the longest 40 minutes of my life.’
With the help of an epic (almost Inception-esque) score, we experience the same nervous anxiety within The White House, as the US Navy Seal prepare for combat. Obama gives the go-ahead to Mission Geronimo even though ‘it was only 50-50 that Bin Laden was there’. A huge gamble. The stakes are higher than ever before and even though I knew what was coming next, I was on the edge of my seat as the Seals begin their ascent on the compound and Black Hawk 1 started to fall and spin.