Conservatives feared SEAL Team Six, the film about the raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound, was an underhanded propaganda ploy by President Barack Obama’s supporters.
But the made-for-TV movie, released two days before the elections, was a flop. When it debuted on Sunday, it was panned by TV critics as a “dim and simple-minded work of fiction” – incapable of swaying even the most ambivalent voters.
SEAL Team Six was produced by one of Barack Obama’s biggest backers in Hollywood, Harvey Weinstein, who rushed it forward to ensure it debuted before November 6.
Harvey Weinstein also oversaw editing changes that played up Barack Obama’s role in ordering the May 2011 commando assault into Pakistan that killed the al-Qaeda leader.
Fact-checkers also point out several inaccuracies in the movie – including the idea that then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates opposed going after Osama bin Laden.
SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama Bin Laden was billed as a political game-changer – released just a two days before the dead-even election between Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney, conservatives feared it would give the president free propaganda and unfairly sway voters at a critical time.
Barack Obama has campaigned on his role in the death of the 9/11 mastermind – frequently touting: “GM is alive and Osama bin Laden is dead.”
The film casts the president as an “edited-in-costar”, writes Ken Tucker, an Entertainment Weekly film critic.
Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawick panned the movie as suffering the same flaws as most made-for-TV docu-dramas – but he said the film had a clear political objective.
“<<SEAL Team Six>> feels more like propaganda at times than it does prime-time entertainment. Yet it will still leave you with a feel-good surge, if not a lump in your throat, at the end when the team returns from its mission. And that visceral response makes you want to believe even more in the heroic actions you just witnessed. One of those heroes is President Barack Obama,” he wrote.
It splices in several pieces of real-life footage of the president at the time – including footage of him cracking jokes at the White House Correspondents dinner on the eve of the raid, as well as his remarks to the country after Osama bin Laden’s death.
But TV critics say the movie, which aired on National Geographic, fizzled.
“As either propaganda or realist fiction <<SEAL Team Six>> is ineffective. It’s on the level of those <<The army is just like a character-building video game!>> enlistment ads you see before movies, simple-minded and, at most, superficially rousing. Barack Obama probably isn’t wild about help this dim,” writes Willa Paskin of Salon.com.
Ken Tucker said the cheesy banter between the actors playing Navy SEALS sounded like it had been “checked out from a well-preserved World War II supply closet”.
Example: “In this world you don’t get to live free without working for it. You gotta earn it every day, and that day we did,” a commando named Cherry, played by Anson Mount, declares.
Among the other sins in the movie is its unhealthy blend of fact and fiction, critics say. It even gets several key points dead wrong.
It portrays Defense Secretary Robert Gates as opposed to the raid – a role that makes Barack Obama’s decision to attack even more heroic.
However, Robert Gates was initially skeptical of sending commandos into Pakistan because he wasn’t certain bin Laden was actually at the compound in Abbottabad. He later changed his position when it was confirmed the terrorist leader was inside.
The movie also shows a dramatic firefight in the building where Osama bin Laden was killed. Most accounts of the raid say that the only exchange was fire was in a guest house when Osama bin Laden’s courier shot at the SEALs.