Osama No More: How Long Until The Movie Appears?

Every historical flash-point finds a mirror in cultural output, and no event has had more impact on the world in the past ten years than the heinous atrocities committed in the name of "faith" on September 11th 2001. Those crimes of mass violence changed the world irrevocably in the weeks, months and years that followed, compelling many Western countries to multiple wars, and sparking one of the most infamous and oddly iconic cat and mouse stories in modern political history as one name shot to the top of the World's Most Wanted list immediately following the attacks. Today that man, Osama Bin Laden, leader of al-Qaeda, the mastermind of 9/11 and a man with the blood of thousands on his hands supposedly lies dead at sea, following an American Special Forces operation in Pakistan. Parties have already broken out across America, and the tide of good feeling has spread across the world (albeit tempered by messages of caution and vigilance), and the day's events have got me thinking: how long before someone decides to make a film about it? While some might think an immediate filmic response to this event would be cynical and exploitative, it would only be a jingoistic, hollow and wholly patriotic response that would fit that bill. In the wake of 9/11, Oliver Stone's World Trade Centre suffered somewhat because it chose such a path, while Paul Greengrass' United 93 was more highly heralded for its focus on a documentary of events over sentiment. I would argue that while it might seem a little exploitative to make money out of the situation, it is important to chronicle the reaction to flash-point events like this through film, and as long as it is handled appropriately, it could well be a worthwhile project. The story is undeniably compelling, and the idea of a politically charged Military Ops film must surely already be forming in someone's head. In conversation with OWF head honcho Matt Holmes (yes, we talk a lot), the names Stone, Greengrass and Peter Berg (director of Middle-East thriller The Kingdom) have already cropped up, and they would seem appropriate enough choices, especially Greengrass who has already shown with United 93 the ability to take a hugely charged subject and make a worthwhile film that didn't surrender under the weight of flowery patriotism. And what about a documentary of which they will inevitably be dozens for the small screen, at least? Morgan Spurlock could release a sequel to Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? Perhaps called Oh, There He Is. Michael Moore must also surely be tempted to dust off his film-making equipment to offer his own version of "The Truth". The difficulty with the subject is very much the same issue that the world now faces: okay, Bin Laden is dead but one man's death does not immediately change the world for the better, and his legacy was already a far more important factor than the man himself. To an extent in this case, the mushroom cloud is of far more consequence than the bomb - and as a result the world now faces a high alert period of concern. Not only that, Bin Laden's death does not fix the past, nor does it bring back the soldiers who have died in the name of wars designed to stop him and his kind since 2001, and any film that brings today's events to the screen must take that into account. While the euphoria right now is tangible, this is very much not the end of the story. To deal with those concerns, and if I was in charge, I might be tempted to make a film that offered the juxtaposition of two convergent stories - one focusing on the Special Forces team who undertook the operation, and one on a "normal" soldier in Afghanistan, something that takes in the statement and authentic sentiment of Tim Hetherington's exceptional Restrepo. So by all means celebrate the success, but use the opportunity to offer a more lasting portrait of what Bin Laden's actions and agenda have meant to those who choose to defend their country in other lands. Personally, I'd like to see Ridley Scott in charge. I value his 2001 film Black Hawk Down as the greatest modern military movie, and believe he has the experience and ability to create a film that has both the necessary action impact and the wider loaded message. Whoever takes the reigns, I'd also like to see the film perhaps exploring how Bin Laden managed to convince the entire world that he was holed-up in a cave somewhere, when he was really just sitting with his feet up in his Pakistan mansion chuckling into his beard as his own Catch The Pigeon style caper unfolded on CNN.
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