The rules are simple. The good get spared. The bad get spoiled.
American Sniper (Warner Bros. Pictures)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
I don’t know what all the fuss is about. We’ve been making propaganda war movies like American Sniper for years: Black Hawk Down, The Hurt Locker. Although American Sniper is nowhere near as good as either of those films, it is still pretty damn good. Eastwood is a talented storyteller. This is a bit more of a “God Bless America” moment for him but I wouldn’t expect anything less from Extreme Right Winger Mister Eastwood (and his empty chair). Bradley Cooper is superb and Sienna Miller is fantastic. I have loved her since Factory Girl. And she really gets to show her range here. American Sniper is a good and an entertaining movie that tries hard to show how difficult it is to heal the hidden wounds of war. But instead shows us the hero’s journey (from war to home to war to home to war to home), and how difficult it is to adjust to it; to turn off the trained killer and become the husband & father. And then go back to the killer again.
American Sniper works well as a work of fiction. A fictionalized portrait of a war hero. A sniper who perches high above the battlefield saving lives by killing men, women and children from a distance. This is a movie where the enemies swarm like cockroaches. Where you’re only supposed to feel anything at all, if an American dies on-screen. Or a child. These movies always hold children in high regard. The hero can massacre hundreds of the enemy. Scores of every day citizens. Mothers, fathers, uncles, brothers… but if he kills one child, everyone’s heart stops (they’re so cute at that age).
In American Sniper (I keep wanting to call it American Psycho so bad… for obvious reasons), the children in the movie hold shoulder-fired rocket launchers, plant bombs, throw grenades and are spies & tiny terrorists (they’re so cute at that age). Every tan person in this film is the enemy. Every single one. Mister Eastwood shows his bigotry more as he ages. And I can understand how some of the movie’s critics let this bother them but this is an American war movie about a war that we lost… recently. And this is a movie blatantly geared toward returning vets.
The parts I objected to in American Sniper were his characterizations of America as this defender of the weak. Some kind of bully patrol. The wars we wage do nothing but offer a smoke screen for smuggling, embezzling and other nefarious activities. We are not the hero. It is not a coincidence that we go to war with the biggest drug producers in the world. That old “war for oil” lie is complete bullshit because you can’t do that. You can’t steal the oil in the dead of night. We’d have to take over their oil fields for an extended amount of time and everyone would see that. But the illegal drug trade? Nobody’s looking at that. (On an unrelated note, heroin is back in a big way, so God Bless America). Okay this review has gotten way off track.
American Sniper is a wave the flag, good old boy, red-blooded, American movie and I’ll be damned if it didn’t make me think that our armed forces was 99% white (it’s not). God Bless America one last time. But what I’m trying to tell you is that it’s a good movie. Well written, great pace, good music, great performances. And if it makes a veteran feel better or if it makes the families of servicemen and women feel proud, then it has done what it was meant to do. I just hope they don’t use it as a recruitment film. Because while it feels like a hero’s tale, it is not based in reality. It does not ring true as a true-to-life war movie or even as a biography. It’s the Pat Tillman of movies. A white-washing of a brutal story.
But if you look at American Sniper as just a movie. As just a work of fiction, loosely based on a true story, then it’s pretty damn good. And that’s all I’m saying. American Sniper is a pretty damn good film. Not the best movie of 2014, but still pretty damn good.
A good work of fiction.