First off, let’s get one thing out of the way, because anyone who talks about this film always says the same thing: “Did he really find Osama bin Laden? I heard he did.” Without spoiling the documentary I will say this: what do you think? Do you really think an independent documentary filmmaker had not only found the most wanted man on the planet, but was able to keep it a secret all the way up until a theatrical release? Do you REALLY think that?
Morgan Spurlock’s “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden” isn’t really about finding the big guy anyway. Spurlock, on the cusp of becoming a father for the first time, finds himself scared to death of bringing a new life into this unsafe world, and tackles the task of finding bin Laden solely to make things safer for his child. What he really does during his search is uncover how the United States foreign policy has shaped the perception of the country overseas. And, my friends, THAT’S the really scary stuff.
The film is, like “Super Size Me,” extremely entertaining and, again, Spurlock shows that if it’s one thing he knows how to do well, it’s the first 10 minutes of a documentary. Spurlock opens strong, sets up the comedic tone for much of the piece (complete with MC Hammer dancing bin Ladens and a “Mortal Kombat”-inspired version of himself squaring off with bin Laden) and you get the impression that we’re in for a very light-hearted affair. That is, until he starts travelling the globe.
For one, the comedy turns from laughing alongside Spurlock to laughing at Spurlock and the United States, particularly anytime he asks someone where he might find bin Laden. Everyone from Egypt to Pakistan seems to think Spurlock is nuts and the general “one man evil” idea to be just as silly.
So where do the merits of this film lie? Simply, this is an easy film to watch that raises enough questions about the world’s, particularly the Middle Eastern countries’, perception of the United States and, likewise, our own misconceptions of that region and the War on Terror, to keep you thinking without, say, causing your head to split open. The film never gets preachy, and never judges the words coming from the participants. “Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?” does just enough to open our eyes, but it is not the sweeping change Spurlock hopes it might be when he takes on the role of bin Laden hunter.