SEAL who shot bin Laden speaks: The 7 things 'Zero Dark Thirty' got wrong

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Image Credit: Jonathan Olley

“They torture the sh– out of people in this movie, don’t they? Everyone is chained to something.”

That’s how the man who actually shot and killed Osama bin Laden reacted when he saw Zero Dark Thirty, Kathryn Bigelow’s Best Picture-nominated film about the search for al Qaeda’s founder. The shooter is the subject of a lengthy new profile in Esquire that explores how he’s adjusting to civilian life after leaving SEAL Team 6 — despite receiving no pension, healthcare, or extra protection for his family from the U.S. government or the military.

The whole thing, obviously, is worth reading. But naturally, we were most interested in what the shooter had to say about the “little stuff” Zero Dark Thirty got wrong — including:

1. The SEAL who yelled “Breacher!during the Abbottabad raid sequence
Upon hearing this, the shooter actually shouted, “Are you f—ing kidding me? Shut up!” His explanation, in writer Phil Bronstein’s words: “No one would ever yell, ‘Breacher!’ during an assault. Deadly silence is standard practice, a fist to the helmet sufficient signal for a SEAL with explosive packets to go to work.” Generally, said the shooter, the film’s characters were far too talkative during the assault scenes — “If someone was waiting for you, they could track your movements that way.”

2. The SEALs’ body art
“The tattoo scene was horrible,” the shooter said, referring to a scene that finds the film’s SEAL Team 6 lounging around without their combat gear. “Those guys had little skulls or something instead of having some real ink that goes up to here.”

3. The helicopters
They should have turned away from their target, not toward it. Also, real SEALS apparently don’t talk while riding in choppers.

4. The mission’s length
It took “way too long” compared to the actual events of May 1, he said — and its tactics “sucked.”

5. The stairs in the Abbottabad house
They were configured inaccurately, though the article doesn’t give any specifics.

6. The dog
In the movie, it’s a German shepherd; in real life it was a Belgian Malinois, a.k.a. a Belgian Shepherd. Big difference there.

7. The move toward Osama
According to the shooter, he and his fellow SEALs didn’t call out bin Laden’s name as they moved toward his bedroom. And interestingly enough, the real scene that followed the terrorist’s death may have been more dramatic than its Hollywoodized interpretation: “When Osama went down, it was chaos, people screaming. No one called his name.”

That said, the shooter also called the film “fun to watch” and had nothing but praise for Jessica Chastain’s “awesome,” Oscar-nominated portrayal of CIA Osama specialist Maya — a character based on a real agent who’s still in the field. “They made her a tough woman,” he said, “which she is.”

Read more:
No, Jessica Chastain doesn’t hate Jennifer Lawrence
‘Zero Dark Thirty’ writer Mark Boal says U.S. torture was ‘dead wrong’
Inside the Best Picture Nominees: A deep dive into ‘Zero Dark Thirty’

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