x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Where in the World Is Osama bin Laden?

Cinema review The fearless documentary maker Morgan Spurlock sets himself a prickly challenge.

<i>Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden?</i> directed by Morgan Spurlock.
Where In The World Is Osama Bin Laden? directed by Morgan Spurlock.

Good question. After boldly risking his health as a fast-food guinea pig in the 2004 Oscar contender Super Size Me, the fearless documentary maker Morgan Spurlock sets himself a much more prickly challenge here. Nominally on a quest to hunt down the world's most wanted terrorist, he spends seven months traversing the Middle East, North Africa, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, his pregnant wife frets away at home in New York as the birth of their first son looms. Using imminent fatherhood as spurious motivation in his mission to make the world a safer place, Spurlock's approach is full of good humour and faux-naif charm, but it ultimately feels ill-conceived and gimmicky. His scattershot sleuthing tactics include phoning relatives of Bin Laden, buttonholing random strangers in the street, and interviewing Saudi schoolchildren. It soon becomes clear that Spurlock's real agenda is not his amateurish and doomed manhunt, but rather to expose the diversity of Islamic and Arab culture to American audiences. Sadly his sappy conclusion, that we are all brothers under the skin, feels like a simplistic and disingenuous cop-out. His intentions are noble, his actions often courageous, but Spurlock's well-meaning western liberal desire for a glib, feel-good Hollywood ending may ultimately be more part of the problem than the solution.