It has caused a Nazi related Twitter war for Seth Rogen after he drew comparisons between the film and Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, has been accused of complicating a real life trial, and has even fallen victim to a deluge of mockery from critics for an unfortunately fake baby. According to Buzzfeed, it is ‘the fakest baby in movie history’. The Washington Post is only willing to go so far as call it ‘super fake’, but IFC did go as far as to make a ‘For Your Consideration’ ad for it, while Grantland got an exclusive interview with the baby itself. Truth be told, according to Vulture, apparently the real baby was just sick and the director was in a hurry.
If we zoom out from the media’s hilarious laser focus on babygate, Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper is still being dubbed a phenomenon at the box office. This weekend its reached $200.1 for Warner Bros and Village Roadshow, making it the second biggest war film of all time (ignoring inflation), after Steven Spielberg’s ‘Saving Private Ryan’, which is quite a triumph.
Already decorated with a cool six Oscar nominations, the film is based on the memoir of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL who became the deadliest sniper in US military history. Kyle was later killed by a fellow veteran – whom he was trying to help – on a shooting range in Texas. Bradley Cooper plays Kyle, and gives what must be credited as the performance of his lifetime. Sienna Miller plays his wife, somewhat averagely, but thankfully her mediocrity doesn’t cause the film to unravel around her.
Dealing with true stories, and especially those of veterans, will always raise the questions of a) why are you making the film? and b) why are you making it now? Ask Eastwood and he would most likely proudly tell you it’s a timely anti-war statement. Ask one of the sceptics (of which there are many) and they would say it’s a pro-America, pro-war piece of Oscar desperate propaganda. Both may and could well be true, but this shouldn’t ruin enjoyment of what is an intense, upsetting but ultimately positive film.
Indeed, American Sniper glorifies war to a certain extent, and also does feel notably more accomplished during the war scenes as opposed to the scenes when Kyle returns home between tours; however we must consider that this variance exactly mirrors the emotions Kyle experiences himself. Many other ex-snipers have since come out and sympathized with Kyle in his apparent anxiety to return to war when at home between tours, despite the comfort and ‘normality’ being offered to him.
‘American Sniper’ never pitched itself as a documentary. The fact it has been released smack bang on the middle of awards season just goes to prove that this is a mainstream film, designed to entertain. This film should be applauded for what is has achieved aside from box office glory, that being ensuing a lively and passionate global debate not just on the role and perception of snipers in war, but more importantly the significance (or lack thereof) of any disparity between fact and entertainment.
3.5 out of 5
Uncomfortable watching and patchy in places, but largely very powerful. A must see this awards season.