Magazine article Screen International

Manhunt

Magazine article Screen International

Manhunt

Article excerpt

Dir: Greg Barker. US-UK. 2013. 90mins

Manhunt - or to give it its full title, Manhunt: The Search For Osama Bin Laden - dissects the CIA's long pursuit of the al Qaeda leader. As intelligence analysts blamed for 9/11 save their own reputations, the doc revisits the global dragnet with the people who conducted it. Told largely by CIA women, Manhunt could find a sizable female audience on HBO when it marks the mission's anniversary in the spring.

Manhunt breaks new ground in the circles of American independent film as a tale that ends, as it did unexpectedly at Sundance, with audiences giving standing ovations to CIA employees.

It could also be seen as an improbable ode to feminism, another asset. Yet war-glut risks suppressing that viewership, as it has with any films dealing with recent conflicts in the Islamic world. Shelf life, given the changing Middle East situation, will be brief.

Manhunt predictably redeems the much-maligned CIA analysts who were stigmatized for lacking exact intelligence about the 9/11 attacks. Several analysts who tracked Bin Laden since the 1990's then advance the doc's story to the discovery of the fugitive's hiding place in Abbottobad, Pakistan, as a trail of prisoners and informants lead the CIA to the sheik. The CIA researchers themselves suffered casualties. At a pivotal moment, a trusted Jordanian physician, whom agents thought they had turned, blows up himself and part of the CIA team - the scene is also reconstructed in Zero Dark Thirty. Don't expect a victory lap. The doc skips details about the siege and capture of Bin Laden's safe house.

Greg Barker, who based his film on a book by veteran reporter Peter Bergen, packs his information densely, making Manhunt a reality check of the reality check that Zero One Thirty promised to be. Tracking suspects is painstaking and slow, we're told, and needs patient personalities that don't crack after missing a quick crescendo. Mostly women stalked Bin Laden, from desks in Washington.

Barker took a measured look at a horrific tragedy in Sergio (2011), which examined the peacemaking achievements of the Brazilian UN diplomat Sergio Vieira de Melo, who died in a bombing in Baghdad in 2003.

Barker's strategy in revisiting the search for Bin Laden counterposes the story told by those understated women with shoot-from-the-hip war stories from Marty Martin, a former operative in the field who speaks Arabic with a Louisiana accent. …

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