TIMING is everything in show business, but the director of the first movie about the commando raid that killed Osama bin Laden doubts its television premiere on Sunday will swing the US election.
SEAL Team Six: The Raid on Osama bin Laden raised eyebrows when it was announced last month that it would screen for the first time on the US National Geographic pay-TV channel just two days before America votes.
Fuelling the buzz was the fact that Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, a prominent fundraiser for President Barack Obama, is the distributor and one of the executive producers of the 90-minute action thriller.
In an interview on Thursday, director John Stockwell shrugged off suggestions that his film is some kind of prime-time Obama propaganda tool to sway voters less than 48 hours before polls open.
“It was never written or shot to do that,” he said.
“Are there people out there who don’t know that it was on this president’s watch that Osama bin Laden was killed, and that this movie informs them of that? I would be surprised.”
The daring May 2011 dead-of-night operation by US Navy SEALs against the al-Qaeda leader who ordered the 9/11 attacks was a defining moment of Obama’s first term.
The president turns up often in the film, which was shot in Khopoli, India and Santa Fe, New Mexico, but only in the form of archive footage – much of it pulled from the White House website.
Cam Gigandet, a vampire tracker in Twilight, stars as the leader of the tight-knit SEAL team that also includes rapper Xzibit. Kathleen Robertson, from the original Beverly Hills 90210 series, portrays an intense CIA analyst.
Inexplicably uncredited are Bollywood stars Maninder Singh and Rajesh Shringarpore, who play local CIA operatives who risk their lives staking out Obama’s fortified lair in Pakistan.
Cast as bin Laden is Yon Kempton, who speaks no lines before he is shot twice and killed in a dark room with a Kalashnikov in his hand.
Stockwell, whose previous credits include the 2002 surfer girl movie Blue Crush, said it was the National Geographic Channel – part of conservative Rupert Murdoch’s media empire – that picked Sunday as the premiere date.
“It has only one goal, and that is for as many people as possible to watch this,” added Robertson, speaking by telephone from New York. “They want ratings.”
The film goes on to Netflix streaming video on Monday, then into US cinemas from Thursday, in a 180-degree reversal of the way a movie usually goes out into the world.