Osama Bin Laden?
- Rated PG-13
All photos © Weinstein Co.
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
organ Spurlock is a man of the people, so it’s not at all surprising that after the underground success of his directorial debut, “Super Size Me,” he was quickly thrust into the limelight and baptized by the media as the next Michael Moore. Though that may be true, it’s also sort of a mixed blessing. After all, there are only two types of people when talking about Michael Moore: those that hate him with the red-hot fire of a thousand suns, and those that accept his publicity stunt-driven documentaries for what they really are – sheer entertainment. Fortunately for Spurlock, he’s a helluva lot more likeable than Moore, and though his sophomore effort, “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?,” doesn’t tap into his affable personality nearly as often as it should, it still succeeds as one of the more effective commentaries on the current state of the Middle East.
Supposedly motivated by the impending birth of his first child (though filming on the documentary actually started long before), “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?” finds Spurlock setting off to the Middle East to track down the world’s most wanted criminal. He doesn’t want to raise his child in a world that has become more dangerous every day, and though the U.S. military has yet to find Bin Laden with millions of dollars in resources, Spurlock claims that if he’s “learned anything from big-budget action films, it’s that complicated world problems are best solved by one guy.” After receiving basic survival training, a various array of immunizations, and a brief course on conversational Arabic, Spurlock travels across the Middle East (from Egypt and Israel to Afghanistan and Pakistan) asking one question: where in the world is Osama Bin Laden? What he finds instead are people much like everyday Americans, all of whom seem to agree that Bin Laden isn’t the problem, but rather the environment he’s created through Islamic fundamentalism.
Much of the film is made up of interviews with random civilians, street vendors and community leaders, and they all say the same thing: Middle Easterners love Americans, but they hate the American government’s foreign policy. Of course, this is something that most people already know; especially when you consider that most Americans don’t even agree with our government. So does that mean Spurlock’s film has little value in today’s discussion on the war? Not at all, because while certain generalizations (i.e. all Middle Easterners are terrorists, all foreigners hate Americans) are quickly debunked, a brand new argument is spawned in the process – namely, if Osama Bin Laden was captured or killed, would the current influx of terrorist attacks subside? It’s an interesting question, and one that makes Spurlock’s original declaration all that more insignificant. After all, if he really had found Bin Laden, don’t you think we would have heard about it by now?
Though the film has its share of comedic moments (including the “Mortal Kombat”-esque opening credits and Spurlock’s childlike reaction to shooting a rocket launcher), “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?” is a much more serious documentary than the director’s last outing, and fittingly so. Obesity is something that is easier to laugh at (especially when someone is subjecting himself to the affliction), but a discussion about the Middle East demands a little more tact, and Spurlock handles it surprisingly well. It’s just too bad that the only people who will see this film are those that already understand the current situation, because the one that needs to watch it the most is the government itself.
Single-Disc DVD Review:
It’s rare to find a documentary with great DVD extras, and the single-disc release of Morgan Spurlock’s second film is no different. Though there are plenty of deleted interviews included (with everyone from former IRA president Martin McGuinness to Israeli president Shimon Peres), they aren’t nearly as effective when viewed out of context. Additionally, the alternate “western showdown” ending (which revisits the Morgan vs. Osama battle from the beginning of the film) is far too aggressive (even for Spurlock), while “The Animated History of Afghanistan” is funny, but brief.