Director Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who made The Hurt Locker, are planning a movie about the raid that took out Osama bin Laden. This is an excellent topic for a movie, and in my opinion, The Hurt Locker was one of the better War on Terror movies thus far. Admittedly, it’s a rather low bar to hurdle, since so many of the others amounted to propaganda films for the enemy.
Filmmakers often secure the cooperation of the military. Michael Bay, for example, can sweet-talk them into deploying anything short of nuclear weapons. War on Terror movies have not generally been kind to America’s armed forces, but they have been treated extremely well by Mr. Bay during their struggle against the Decepticons.
The level of cooperation for the bin Laden project is nevertheless unprecedented, as Maureen Dowd of the New York Times explains:
The White House is also counting on the Kathryn Bigelow and Mark Boal big-screen version of the killing of Bin Laden to counter Obama’s growing reputation as ineffectual. The Sony film by the Oscar-winning pair who made “The Hurt Locker” will no doubt reflect the president’s cool, gutsy decision against shaky odds. Just as Obamaland was hoping, the movie is scheduled to open on Oct. 12, 2012 — perfectly timed to give a home-stretch boost to a campaign that has grown tougher.
The moviemakers are getting top-level access to the most classified mission in history from an administration that has tried to throw more people in jail for leaking classified information than the Bush administration.
It was clear that the White House had outsourced the job of manning up the president’s image to Hollywood when Boal got welcomed to the upper echelons of the White House and the Pentagon and showed up recently — to the surprise of some military officers — at a C.I.A. ceremony celebrating the hero Seals.
Just like W., Obama is going for that “Mission Accomplished” glow (without the suggestive harness). At least in this president’s case, though, something has been accomplished.
As you might gather from that last paragraph, Dowd doesn’t think any of this reflects badly on Obama or the filmmakers. The rest of us can only marvel at the stupendous value of the completely unregulated campaign contribution Hollywood is making to the failed President. We can also wonder how much security is being compromised in the process, and speculate how all of this would have been reported by people like Dowd, if President John McCain was setting up a motion picture to boost his re-election campaign.
I have a few questions about this project. Which of the dozens of versions of the bin Laden raid story offered by the White House will be filmed? Or will this be a sort of Rashomon project, in which all twenty or thirty of them are presented, and the audience challenged to decide which was real? Will they cover what was really happening during the infamous “CTU” photo the White House circulated, meaning to convey the impression that Obama, Hillary Clinton, and the rest of the gang were supervising the raid in real-time?
How will they depict Obama’s 16-hour delay in making history’s gutsiest call? Maybe Bigelow could go the Paranormal Activity route, and show Obama standing there motionless as the videotape fast-forwards through sixteen hours.
I don’t know if this eleventh-hour cinematic love letter will make as much of a difference as Dowd and the White House are hoping. In fact, the effect could be somewhat comical. Will voters crawling through the wreckage of the Obama Depression be inspired by one more reminder of the bin Laden kill? Or will it rub them the wrong way, as they contemplate the trillions in spending, and millions of lost jobs, they paid for this one-trick pony?
One thing is for sure: the deeds of those who executed the bin Laden raid are a story worth telling, and if it’s done right, it will be a movie worth seeing. It would be a shame if crass attempts to use the film for political purposes drove audiences away.
Update: It looks like Rep. Peter King (R-NY) of the House Homeland Security Committee has indeed been wondering about how much security was compromised for this film, as reported by Caroline May at the Daily Caller:
New York Republican Rep. Peter King sent a letter Tuesday to Defense Department Inspector General Gordon Heddell and CIA Inspector General David Buckley, expressing his concern about declassifying sensitive information for pure entertainment.
“The administration’s first duty in declassifying material is to provide full reporting to Congress and the American people, in an effort to build public trust through transparency of government,” he wrote. “In contrast, this alleged collaboration belies a desire of transparency in favor of a cinematographic view of history.”
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