AMERICAN SNIPER —-gee, thanks, Clint. This is just about as divisive as a movie can get. Argue that it’s really well-done in most dramatic and technical respects and those on the left (who generally refuse to see it) will think you’re giving tacit approval to Bush’s Iraq War, and secretly harbor racist or fascist impulses. Tell people it’s also a load of bull, conflating and/or inventing events to justify war crimes and a proven liar’s psychotic slaughter-fest and those on the right will say you’re gutless, unpatriotic, need to move to Iran or Russia. How about Vermont?
In the long run of movie history, and in the pantheon of the War Movie Genre, eventually this will assume its rightful place, neither terrible or wonderful, somewhere in the middle. It is, and this rather staggers the unwary–the most financially successful war movie of all time, grossing $547,000,000. It was the biggest hit of 2014, and is the top moneymaker of Eastwood’s remarkable career. Jeez. It drew the most savage reviews from its detractors of any ‘statement’ movie since The Green Berets and had the most vociferous, mouth-breathing defense that Fox News could whip up short of going door-to-door with a kid in a wheelchair and a flag-draped puppy.
In some ways it’s the perfect War On Terror movie, its “USA!” bellowing partisans reveling in scoped kill-shots and simply flat-out ignoring the parts of Chris Kyle’s story that were not, you know—truthful. Is it too much to ask you couch-commandos that if we ship our troops off to some place you can’t find on a map that they at least shoot the right people? It shows how far we’ve slunk down the honor roll from Sergeant York and To Hell And Back. Gary Cooper and Audie Murphy this guy just ain’t, sorry.
It’s also good enough, as pure movie to draw you in and keep your attention. Clint’s direction is strong as ever, it’s his best behind-camera job since Letters From Iwo Jima. Editing and sound are high quality. Bradley Cooper does his typically intense work, yet another top-rate job from a guy who seamlessly combines the sensitive with the explosive. Sienna Miller scores as his wife. Other cast members and characters leave little impression. Script relies on clichés too often, with the usual training, roughhousing, back-slapping macho jive to wade through.
Acknowledging that there are legions of bloodthirsty maniacs galore out there deserving of a head-shot, I disagree vehemently with Clint’s simple-minded politics and think this entire Middle East scam shames and degrades us. The movie, though, was surprisingly watchable. Didn’t change my mind an iota.
Oscar winner for Sound Editing. Nominated for Best Picture, Actor (Cooper), Script, Film Editing, Sound Mixing. 133 minutes.