It’s amazing that 2 countries (the USA and the UK) who cooperated so closely during the invasion of Afghanistan still can’t agree on how to write Osama Bin Laden’s name. In the US it’s Usama, in the UK it’s Osama.
Anyway enough of that. This is a serious drama focusing on the CIA’s search and eventual capture/killing (I don’t think that’s a spoiler) of Osama Bin Laden. It’s tense, well acted and grounded in realism. The film doesn’t flinch when showing the torture and degradation of Al Qaeda terrorists, although you suspect that even so it is a little watered-down from what really took place. The lead character is Maya (Jessica Chastain) a CIA analyst who is very much devoted to her work, obsessive in fact. She is strong, determined but vulnerable. Again it’s pleasing to see a realistic female character in a film rather than either the 2 dimensional superwoman or passive victim characters we usually get.
The fact that much of this really happened connects you to the film more, but here is a slight problem because you already know what’s going to happen so there’s an inevitability about Osama’s capture which does reduce a little of the tension. What’s much more of a problem though is that the film lacks something to lift it above the level of a good drama. The story is told well but there’s no warmth between the characters, barely any relationships that go beyond a working one. To put it bluntly it’s hard to care about much other than the outcome. When one of the main female characters is killed, Jessica sheds a tear but you don’t, especially since her death was set up in such a way to make it look like the character almost deserved to die. In this film Maya will be the only character you care about.
The sequence showing the capture of Osama Bin Laden (when it eventually happens) is very well done, it’s tense, dramatic and because you know it really happened it’s also incredibly visceral. This is the real world where if a bullet hits you, it kills you. It’s far more dramatic and dangerous than any action movie set piece could ever be – which it is of course. Here people die in a split second with minimum fuss, not over 10 minutes of protracted slow motion kung-fu gun fights.
A well told, tense drama but for most of it’s length it lacks a certain spark to elevate it to something special. A terrific sequence showing the capture of UBL/OBL but then a disappointing ending.