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HBO's 'Manhunt' review: Catching the world's most-wanted terrorist

"Manhunt" tells the remarkable true story of the two decade search for the world's most notorious terrorist, Osama Bin Laden. Credit: HBO

THE DOCUMENTARY "Manhunt: The Inside Story of the Hunt for Osama bin Laden"

WHEN | WHERE Wednesday night at 8 on HBO

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Two years ago Wednesday, President Barack Obama announced Osama bin Laden had been killed at a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan. This documentary is told largely from the CIA's perspective -- and more specifically from the perspective of women who comprised the bin Laden unit at Langley, Va. Initially it was called "Alec Station," based on Peter Bergen's 2012 book, "Manhunt: The Ten-Year Search for bin Laden From 9/11 to Abbottabad."

MY SAY "Manhunt" ends before the raid, which is just when Bergen's book was getting warmed up -- and begins with interviews of the women from Alec Station. That's your clue to what this broadcast is really about: Exoneration and, to a certain extent, celebration. These are the real people, the unknowns, the moms-next-door, the "unsung heroes" who helped catch the world's most wanted terrorist.

It's a compelling human-interest approach, and, as presented here, probably overdue, too. None of these women picked up Jessica Chastain's Oscar nomination for "Zero Dark Thirty" (her Maya was an amalgam of them all). This one's for them -- including Barbara Sude, Cindy Storer, Jennifer Matthews and, especially, Nada Bakos. They and the CIA were favored whipping posts for House and Senate subcommittees looking for scapegoats after 9/11. But, as Storer points out, "People say, 'Why don't you connect the dots?' Well, because the whole page is black."

"Manhunt" isn't out to settle scores, but explain the laborious process of intelligence gathering. No one here is looking for a citation, but understanding, and that's what "Manhunt" does best, as well as -- yes -- connect some dots. For example, you'll leave this program with a clearer understanding of how Abu Musab al-Zarqawi -- the brutal leader of al-Qaida in Mesopotamia -- beat a path directly to bin Laden's compound (inadvertently, of course).

BOTTOM LINE Lots of access to top CIA officials and a sharply drawn picture of those behind the scenes -- largely women -- who got a big job done.


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