When I attended a screening of the new Clint Eastwood movie American Sniper a couple weeks back I had no intention of writing about it. It was a hateful piece of propaganda not worthy of a second thought that would disappear from the public consciousness as quickly as political campaign ads do after the first Tuesday in November.
Or so I figured.
But then I go on vacation and come back to discover that not only is American Sniper breaking records at the box office, but it also became the most clueless movie since Crash to be nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards.
For the two people that haven’t seen American Sniper, it features Bradley Cooper pumped up on human growth hormone as Chris Kyle, a real life Navy Seal. According to the movie Kyle was a saint, a dead eye shooter who killed 160 enemy combatants in Iraq and Afghanistan. He was a rodeo star, and a sensitive man whose heart ached for every one of his fellow American soldiers. If Kyle was one tenth as wonderful a person as the movie portrays him he deserved far better than this muddled, confused mess whose only worthwhile moment comes before the closing credits when they show photographs of the real Kyle and video of the legion of mourners at his funeral. That was the movie’s one moment of honesty.
The remainder of the movie features Cooper doing a Brett Favre imitation more worthy of a Saturday Night Live sketch, than the centerpiece of a “serious” movie about the glories of war.
Since I am fortunate enough to have never visited a war zone, I can not say for certain the war scenes are unrealistic, but based on the fact that Eastwood could not bother to get a real baby instead of an obvious doll to play Kyle’s child, I’m going to go on a limb and say Operation Iraqi Freedom was not the video game they present it to be. According to this movie every Arab from their women to children is a backstabbing swine and every American just wants to get home to give his girl a diamond ring.
There are two key scenes where in the middle of warfare Kyle is on a cell phone call with his wife in the States. This seems grossly incompetent behavior. It could be interesting commentary on the callousness of a sniper waiting in the shadows to kill his prey, but instead it is a lazy storytelling device so Kyle’s wife can hear the horrors her husband is going through.
At times the movie seems to hint that war might be hell, but can’t be bothered to explore that theme at any depth. Worse, it is either too scared or dense to question whether our nation’s volunteer soldiers deserve any of the blame, wrapping itself around the old fascist jingo of “supporting our troops”.
If this movie had disappeared as quickly as Eastwood’s last few flicks, I could have stayed silent. But the fact that a record number of people are lining up to see such a dangerously stupid movie is worrisome. Especially since it could encourage support for future needless wars in the Middle East so we can teach those evil Arabs a lesson.