Code Name: Geronimo Review

Film Still
  • Code Name: Geronimo film still


A film about the capture and execution of Osama Bin Laden. And it isn't Zero Dark Thirty, just before you ask.

Critics hate writing a three-star review. They're paid literally tens of pounds to have an opinion and to score a film bang in the middle of the legally accepted five-point scale. It can read like a shrug transliterated to the page.

They worry that it looks like a lazy, half-arsed cop-out, the product of a mind so jaded from the endless sensual buffet (and actual buffet) that is the screening-room circuit, they can no longer be bothered to care. However, there are some films that so perfectly merit that median point that it's impossible to consider any other take.

A two would be unnecessarily harsh. A four would be to assign some level of depth of enjoyment – you know that moment, usually about a third of the way in where you have the sudden little thrill that you're watching something really good and there's more of it left than you've already had? Well that just isn't there. Code Name: Geronimo is precisely that three-star  movie: not a fine film, but just fine.

In case you haven't been keeping up, Osama bin Laden, CEO of al-Qaeda, is toast. He was killed in Pakistan in 2011 by US special forces, and this is the story of how he was tracked him down, from those very first inklings to the moment an Iowa farm boy (probably) put a round in his face while Mr President watched via live video relay. Thankfully, budgetary restraints have all but nixed an all-out gung-ho action fest, and we get something closer to a police procedural as intelligence agents stack up the clues – and that's no bad thing.

Juxtaposed with this deadly game of global Where's Wally? are the men who will actually go and do the killing, complete with refreshingly less-than-perfect private lives and strained, borderline alcoholic camaraderie. Lastly, there are the agents in the field getting up close to the Bin Laden homestead, a pair of Pakistani-American hotshots who inhabit the most intriguing of the strands (shot with an orangey filter, like in Traffic, so you know it's somewhere hot, foreign and dangerous) and give the film a welcome dose of realpolitik bite.

On the other hand, the script is second-draft fodder for the most part, the female CIA lead has improbable anchorwoman hair (and actually announces a key breakthrough with the line, "Wait a minute ... what did you just say?") and the Bin Laden character is, frankly, underwritten.

To British ears, there's also a bit of a problem that lifts you right out of the narrative during what should be the most visceral, heart-pounding segment of the movie when, during the raid, American controllers keep warning the Navy Seals that the "Paki police" are on their way, or that the "Paki airforce" has been alerted. It's like Homeland written by Bernard Manning. Yes, context is everything, but a bit of research on overseas markets wouldn't go amiss. Have no lessons been learned from trying to sell us a TV series called The Mentalist?

One of the other reasons critics hate to give three-star reviews is that even the most intellectually rigorous writer can fall prey to vanity and the creeping desire to get their name on the film poster, which a tri-stellar critique will never do. This is why many reviews end with a bitesize précis that can be easily digested by an overworked and underpaid PR and shunted up the chain to appear on publicity – "a triumph", "stunning", that kind of thing.

So here's our pitch for the 4-sheet: "Code Name: Geronimo is a film whose defects are entirely balanced by its positive aspects." Zing!


It's a fascinating true story. If done well.



I am watching the film Code Name: Geronimo.


In Retrospect

I have seen the film Code Name: Geronimo.

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