Everything about Manhunt‘s release is precise and deliberate. It’s premiering on HBO exactly one day after Peter Bergen’s book of the same name hits shelves. It comes just a few months after Zero Dark Thirty, which drew a great deal of accolades and an even greater deal of controversy. And of course, it’s airing two years to the day after the killing of Osama bin Laden, the eponymous man who was hunted.

Despite the supposed “closure” granted by bin Laden’s death, the War on Terror continues unabated, with new debate over drone strikes and night raids. Manhunt might be just a cash-in on the new fervor for the CIA and our endless hunger for the gory details of how bin Laden was brought down. It’s highly likely that more than a few of the things its subjects claim will face serious contradiction in the future. But it’ll likely remain valuable as a historical artifact, if for nothing else than the proximity between its release and events it tackles.

We’ll be seeing more movies like this going forward. There’s a documentary about Occupy Wall Street coming later this year, and the window between that film’s release and the time its subject came into existence is even shorter than this film’s. Mass communication is accelerating everything. Just look at how Twitter allowed people to follow news about the Boston Marathon bombing suspects in almost real time. What’s this going to mean for documentaries, which often benefit from taking time in their craftsmanship?

In the case of Manhunt, it feels like there’s perhaps something missing. The doc has gathered a group of CIA analysts and operatives who worked on the hunt for bin Laden. Watching the movie at Sundance, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were people whose input could be immensely valuable, but who couldn’t contribute due to security concerns, given the closeness to the incidents in question. There’s a rushed feeling to the proceedings.

But this is still a riveting story. What makes this more than just a nonfiction counterpart to Zero Dark Thirty is its scope, how it begins over a decade before that film’s narrative. Many people forget that our government was trying to get bin Laden for years before 9/11. The morning of the attacks, there was no doubt in any CIA workers’ minds as to who was responsible. Peter Bergen talks about his 1997 interview with bin Laden, in which the man stated his clear intention to attack the US. There was a large chunk of time when a select group of people, mostly a bullpen of female analysts called “The Sisterhood,” were all but screaming at the government to pay heed to the danger posed by al-Qaeda. Their warnings went ignored, and, well, here we are.

The hunt revved up after the towers fell, and that’s when the doc kicks into high gear. The cast of interviewees expands, and each of them lays out what it’s like to devote year after year of one’s life to a singular, Moby Dick-ish goal. The life of an agent is never like Jack Bauer’s; it’s a lot of intricate detective work, poring over massive amounts of data for patterns, with months or years going on between small steps of progress. Manhunt is chiefly about perseverance.

In that thematic respect, the film overlaps with ZDT. There are also a few notable events that both flicks cover, chiefly the Camp Chapman attack and, obviously, the raid on the Abbottabad compound. It’s interesting to compare and contrast how the respective films handle them. Of course, this shouldn’t be taken as the “authoritative” account. Even if it’s being told by the people actually involved, their tellings are skewed by their own perspectives.

Manhunt is a solid documentary, even if it mostly feels like a CliffsNotes version of a greater story. Among the throng of books and cheesy TV specials about bin Laden’s killing, it manages to stand a head above the rest. But curiously, there’s less “truth” in it than there is in ZDT, the fictional film, which actually says a lot more about how we’ve fought terrorism. There’s more talking but less real self-reflection in this movie. Which means there’s less it actually has to say.

Manhunt airs tomorrow on HBO.