'Super Size Me's' Spurlock goes on quest for bin Laden
Published: Saturday, January 26, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 25, 2008 at 6:23 p.m.
Morgan Spurlock insists he really did set out to find the world's most elusive man.
In "Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?'' the documentarian travels throughout the Middle East chatting in his playful and pointed way with religious leaders, activists, military personnel and everyday people.
After an outrageous opening sequence featuring an animated bin Laden dancing to MC Hammer's "You Can't Touch This,'' the film unfolds as a series of mostly subdued conversations about the war on terror, the reputation of the United States, and yes, the leader of al-Qaeda. The movie, which premiered this week at the Sundance Film Festival, will be released by the Weinstein Co. in April.
As in his breakout Sundance documentary four years ago, "Super Size Me,'' Spurlock gleefully whisks past the boring parts. Numbers, history, context - the stuff many documentaries are built around - get jammed into compact, zippy cartoon interludes, "so you don't get bored,'' he said.
He argues that U.S. policy and military action has propped up dictators and fostered inequality in the Mideast, prompting ever more young Arabs to fight back through violent Islamic fundamentalism.
And then he has some fun: test-firing an RPG launcher, diving from faux grenades and walking a Saudi Arabian mall in a white robe and kaffiyeh.
To get at that titular question, Spurlock traveled to England, France, Morocco, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Dubai and Jordan before zeroing in on Afghanistan and then Pakistan.
But when he reaches a road sign signaling entry to the remote northern parts of Pakistan, where experts have long suspected bin Laden is hiding, Spurlock turns around.
The man who defied death by stuffing himself with McDonald's at every meal decides not to defy death by strutting into a truly dangerous haven for terrorists.
So did he every REALLY plan on finding the al-Qaeda leader?
"We were planning on going into the tribal regions. That was our whole goal from the beginning,'' he said. "But the more people we talked to, the more we started putting the puzzle together, the more we realized that going into this region really wasn't going to solve the problem. Finding this guy isn't the answer.
"There are so many different pieces that make up the puzzle that cause this guy to exist, that by the time we got to the border, by the time we were ready to go in and shoot, I said, 'You know what, there's such a better place for me to be right now.' And that was back home.''
That would be back in New York with his pregnant wife Alexandra Jamieson, who is shown giving birth underwater in a final scene.
Spurlock dedicated the movie to their son, Laken, and pitches his quest for bin Laden as an effort to make the world safer for him. In the opening credits, video-gamelike characters resembling Spurlock and bin Laden face off "Mortal Kombat''-style.
The film is at its best highlighting quirky subjects like the local Afghan governor who wants to lure tourists to the place where bin Laden slipped away under fire in November 2001.
"We will build an amusement park in Tora Bora,'' the man says solemnly, and Spurlock goads him on with talk of roller coasters and water slides.
On a visit to Tel Aviv, Spurlock trails an Israeli bomb squad. "Nice job, HAL,'' he tells a remote-controlled robot that's just destroyed a suspicious case containing a bikini.
He hoped the film would expose Americans to the Mideast's moderates, exemplified by an elderly man in one small Afghan village who tells him: "We are neither your friends nor the Taliban's. We just want a simple life.''
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