'American Sniper' comes under fire
So now all the sniping is about "American Sniper."
For the past few weeks the movie "Selma" has suffered in the cross-hairs of political correctness. Director Ava Duvernay was being criticized for painting Lyndon Baines Johnson as too reticent a civil rights warrior.
Now those cross-hairs are aimed at "Sniper."
This past weekend, while audiences were flooding into theaters for the wide release of Clint Eastwood's film – the movie is expected to earn a record-breaking $100 million over the holiday weekend – critics began bashing the film's hero, real life sniper Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper.
Some simply hated the idea of glorifying a killer.
"My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders r worse," read a tweet by Michigan documentary director Michael Moore.
Others said the film ignored the fact that Kyle, who was killed in 2013 by a veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress, was a racist who said killing the enemy in Iraq was "fun."
According to The Wrap, an online magazine that covers Hollywood, members of the Motion Picture Academy – the folks who vote on the Oscars, where "Sniper" is up for best picture and Cooper is up for best actor – have been passing around a New Republic article by Dennis Jett, who hadn't even seen the movie when he wrote the article.
The article criticizes the film for making a hero out of Kyle, who wrote in his autobiography that his "only regret is that I didn't kill more."
There are a number of arguments to be made here. First off, Kyle may come off as heroic in "American Sniper," but he also comes off as an evasive, simple-minded mess who – in the way soldiers and snipers are trained – saw things in a very black-or-white, us-or-them way.
Beyond that, how surprising is it to find violence in a movie? A Clint Eastwood movie, no less. Shocking. If we're going to start eliminating movies that feature killers there are going to be a whole lot less movies. See ya, Stallone.
But, as with "Selma," the essential problem here is that isn't Chris Kyle up on the screen. Nor is that anything approaching his full story. That's movie star Bradley Cooper playing a character based on a broad outline of Kyle's life. That outline has been manipulated for dramatic effect, and it follows a man who killed for what he saw as a good reason – to protect the lives of his fellow soldiers.
The movie is meant to entertain, to stimulate discussion, to cause discomfort (as it obviously has) and possibly inspire. It does not contain every lunk-headed thing Chris Kyle ever said or did – why would it?
Movies do not tell the truth, even documentaries. Movies tell stories. "American Sniper" is one angle on the story of Chris Kyle, and that angle is nowhere near as simplistic as its critics are making it sound.
And by the way, wanton, pointless or misguided violence will disappear from movies just as soon as it disappears from real life.