Friday, January 23, 2015
Before I actually talk about the movie AMERICAN SNIPER, I'd like to discuss some of the controversy surrounding the production.
Like way too many things in America these days, AMERICAN SNIPER has become politicized to such an extent that trying to have an unbiased opinion on it is almost impossible. Before seeing AMERICAN SNIPER I read a number of reviews, and most of them judged the movie harshly--but it seemed to me the reviewers were more angry at the American military, or America's presence in the Middle East, than they were at the movie itself. I'm also sure most of these reviewers have not forgotten Director-Producer Clint Eastwood's infamous appearance at the 2012 Republican National Convention.
One example of the amount of anger at this movie is the trending topic known as "The Mechanical Baby Scene". If you have been on the internet at any time in the last week, you more than likely have read about this. In AMERICAN SNIPER there is a scene between Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, and what is supposed to be their characters' baby--but the baby is a prop (if I had not known about this beforehand, I never would have noticed it on the screen). Some of the reaction to this scene has been almost vitriolic--it's as if Clint Eastwood broke some sacred cinema law. I bet there are plenty of movies and TV shows that have used prop babies, and no one cared--but it seems that in this case there are people that need to use this to make AMERICAN SNIPER look bad.
I do have to point out that there are some on the other side of the political spectrum who think AMERICAN SNIPER is the Greatest Film Of All Time, and anyone who doesn't agree is Un-American. I believe that Clint Eastwood's biopic of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle is a very good film, with a standout performance by Bradley Cooper as Kyle.
I always thought of Bradley Cooper as something of a pretty boy, but he definitely impressed me this time around. Cooper is totally convincing as the working-class Texan who firmly believes that he is serving his country in the best way possible by fighting in Iraq. Cooper also leaves some hints that Kyle might have been a bit more politically incorrect than the movie is willing to show him.
As expected, AMERICAN SNIPER has plenty of battle scenes. Due to Eastwood's understated visual style, the battles don't wind up resembling THE MATRIX or a Jason Bourne film. It is only toward the end that Eastwood tries to jazz things up by putting in a sandstorm and a slow-moving bullet.
Some have complained that AMERICAN SNIPER glorifies Chris Kyle and the War on Terror. I certainly don't agree with that--if anything, watching this film might scare away anyone from wanting to serve in the Middle East. There's nothing jingoistic about Eastwood's approach--he shows that this conflict is terrifyingly brutal. If you want a discussion on World Geo-Politics, you are not going to get it here--Eastwood has made a film about one man and his experiences. My take on the film is this: Clint Eastwood tried to tell a story about a man who is so proficient in his form of combat, and is so affected by the type of conflict he served in, that he is no longer able to fit in to the society he feels he is fighting for. I don't see how you can call a film pro-war propaganda when it makes you question why American men and women are being wasted in countries that don't want them around in the first place.
AMERICAN SNIPER is on pace to make more money than any Clint Eastwood film ever, and it looks like it will be the most popular film made concerning the War on Terror. Most War on Terror movies have not made much of an impact....I know that THE HURT LOCKER won the Academy Award for Best Picture, but that movie seems almost forgotten by now. Certainly the combination of Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper has something to do with the impact of AMERICAN SNIPER. But it may be that, for whatever reason, the film touches many Americans. All I can say is that at the end of the showing I attended, it was so quiet you could hear a pin drop.