If “Zero Dark Thirty” wins the Oscar for best picture on Sunday (it’s got my vote), many will praise the movie’s gritty realism, particularly when it comes to the re-creation of the climactic raid on Bin Laden’s compound. We’ll be told how the filmmakers took pains to get everything exactly right about the Navy SEALs: their methods, their top-secret weapons, the techniques and teamwork that make them the best-performing soldiers on the planet.
But the filmmakers missed one thing. Which happens to be the most important part of the story.
To watch the movie, you’d think the SEALs were encountering Bin Laden’s compound for the first time on the night of the raid. But in truth, they’d already experienced it, dozens and dozens of times, in training.
As this new article shows, the SEALs prepared for the raid by spending weeks training on full-scale mockups of Bin Laden’s compound — first in Harvey Point, North Carolina, then in Nevada — mockups that replicated the layout right down to every doorway, every gate, every wall.
Think about that. Day after day in combat gear, on a full-scale replica, going through every possible scenario: What if the compound is booby-trapped? What if they’re armed? What if the Pakistani troops show up? What if the helicopter goes down? (In fact, as it turned out, one of the helicopters did go down.) When the time came, they ran the mission perfectly, because they’d built the right brains for the job.
I’d venture to guess that the filmmakers chose not to show the training for artistic reasons. After all, repetition seems kinda boring and pedestrian. But the genius of the SEALs is that they understand that the exact opposite is true. Repetition is badass.