Movie Review: “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?”

Seems like a fair enough question, doesn’t it? Morgan Spurlock’s sophomore documentary film takes him throughout the Middle East in search of the answer. With his first child well on its way, Spurlock decides to do what he can to make the world safer: travel this perceivably troublesome part of the world to find the supposed mastermind behind the September 11 terrorist attacks.

Spurlock, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his 2004 film “Super Size Me” (Kathbur Pictures), begins his quest right here at home. In “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” (Warrior Poets, 2008), he comically goes through a security training session, equipping him with all the necessary skills to combat terror during his upcoming trip and meets with a doctor for the long list of injections needed for travel to the region. Spurlock sheds a bit of political background information in the opening of the film as well – though he is careful not to leave out a decent dose of the humorous flair and wit that has come to be expected of his work.

Spurlock’s trip proves to be far more than some screenplay accompanied by sarcastic political jargon and comedic asides. The investigative reporting in the film is a terrific journalistic effort – engaging the audience with each passing scene.

Spurlock begins his travels in Cairo, Egypt. He travels about the city sparking conversation with all walks of Egyptian life, even seeking out relatives of individuals known to be associated with al-Qaeda. His interviews are often funny but provide a sharp vision of the perception of America in the Middle East. The responses to simple questions such as, “What do you think of America?” are often chilling and downright frightening.

He spends a considerable amount of time in each of his destinations, ultimately traveling through Morocco, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, Saudi Arabia and Afghanistan. As the film progresses, its initial mission statement and title takes a backseat to the emerging question: Why do they hate us?

It should be stated that in no way does the film take an overly politically biased tone. Spurlock does not position his film as a Michael Moore-esque attack piece; but rather he maintains a panoramic view of the issue, investigating all roots of this perception problem from different and contrasting perspectives.

Spurlock’s findings are often as unsettling as they are fascinating – especially his trips to Israel and Saudi Arabia. Scenes of Spurlock walking along the contested boundary on the Gaza Strip and attempting to interview brainwashed children in Saudi schools are enough to leave audiences shocked at the contrasting ideologies existing in the world.

So why do they hate us? “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” offers the theory that political entanglements with corrupt governments over the years and current foreign policy doctrines have led to a torn American image in the Middle East. A typical response from many interviewees is animosity toward the American government, not American citizens.

The film does in fact lead Spurlock on a hunt for bin Laden, and often shows him asking random people the slightly ignorant question of, “Hey, have you seen Osama?” But what comes out of this film in terms of journalistic and cultural value outweighs every penny of the $25 million bounty on America’s most wanted man.

“Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden “hits theaters April 18.

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