There’s a company called The Asylum which specializes in direct-to-video knockoffs of Hollywood blockbusters with titles like Transmorphers and Snakes on a Train.
With Zero Dark Thirty in theatres (and nominated for several Academy Awards), you can be forgiven for assuming that Seal Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden is another low-budget “mockbuster” meant to piggyback on the hype surrounding Kathryn Bigelow’s retelling of the daring mission to capture or kill the world’s most wanted man (The Blu-Ray case points out that it comes from “Producers of The Hurt Locker,” Bigelow’s previous film).
Actually, Seal Team Six aired on the National Geographic Channel before Zero Dark Thirty was released – just a few days before the 2012 Presidential election, in fact. Opening-credits footage of Mitt Romney declaring that he wouldn’t “move heaven and earth to get one man” is probably no accident, considering the involvement of Obama backers Harvey Weinstein.
The resulting film, helmed by actor-turned-director John Stockwell (Blue Crush) is a reasonably entertaining action film which probably didn’t worry Kathryn Bigelow too much. While a debate over the authenticity of Zero Dark Thirty rages on, Seal Team Six is a fictionalized account based on the still-murky details of the raid that finally caught and killed the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks.
That’s why the framing device – “interviews” with members of the Navy SEAL team and the CIA analyst behind the raid – is so odd. These are fictional characters, not actors playing the actual people involved, rendering the entire exercise kind of pointless.
The same goes for occasional attempts to clearinly define the members of Team Six by showing them talking to their families over Skype or, in one truly bizarre scene, getting into a fistfight (To be fair, a moment where some of the team members talk about where they were on September 11, 2001, is more effective, mainly because I’ll never forget where I was that horrible day).
Stockwell does a good job staging the action scenes, however, especially a tense moment when a doctor carrying out the “vaccination drive” used to track down Bin Laden visits his heavily armed compound. I also liked how the SEALS’ impending arrival at the Bin Laden compound is portrayed, which Osama’s fighters (including some family members) being gradually awakened by the sound of approaching helicopters.
At just 90 minutes in length, Seal Team Six is briskly paced, and features excellent production values for a cable-TV film. The scenes set in Pakistan were filmed over the border in India, and the CGI effects are quite good considering the budget. Overall, it’s not bad – but it doesn’t set the bar for Zero Dark Thirty too high.
Technical Info: The Blu-Ray video quality is very good, with remarkably little graininess considering how much of the film is set in the dark. Sound, however, is not so good – during some scenes set at the CIA, the dialogue is so low that I seriously wondered about turning on the subtitles. I’m not sure if this was a directorial decision or if something was lost in the transfer to Blu-Ray, but it’s annoying either way.
The only special feature is a making-of documentary – but it’s 45 minutes long, for an hour-and-a-half movie!