Tuesday, December 30, 2014

American Sniper Is Very Well Made Propaganda

Clint Eastwood finally managed to make a film that didn't bore me to tears. But that doesn't mean American Sniper is %100 just or fair.
American Sniper is the true life story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper). Known as the deadliest killer in US military history, Kyle's obsessive nature pulls him back again and again to a war where the casualties frequently exist in the form of young children and mothers. Families stuck between a rock and a hard place. But Kyle always remains true to his values... in war that is. His home life is a different story altogether.
While I'll happily commend the caliber of filmmaking (I really do like it when filmmakers prove me wrong), I cannot ignore just how one-sided this picture is. At no point is the war questioned, rather it is always remarked upon with the utmost of import... Kyle constantly streams out lines explaining how this war is protecting his family, though there is no imminent threat on his home, wife, or children. And while in most cases, such a strong character opinion could be left as just that, a character's single opinion, American Sniper manages to make this message ultimately seem unquestionable. Even as his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) denounces Kyle's decisions to return to war,  she seems to never feel the need to state any truly strong opinions against the overall operation. This struck me as odd. But it wasn't enough to shortchange the overall film. It was just well made. Interesting. Entertaining. And while war films usually miss the mark for me, this one managed to shoot straight.
I suppose what makes this such an interesting piece is the mythological nature of it. By the time Chris Kyle has returned for his second tour of duty (pretty early on) he has already achieved myth status. To the men around him he is frequently referred to as "Legend" and so the film seems to go with his character as well. There is never a weakness in him. There is never a miss or a misstep... outside of one home incident. And even that is cleaned up in such a way that we are expected to feel nothing but respect for every aspect of the man's life. And I agree he is a true hero. But something about this approach to his character feels strikingly like propaganda straight out of the 1950s.
Regardless of that opinion, Bradley Cooper gave a clear and concise performance. I really think he's coming along as an actor and it's cool to watch him grow here. I've never had a problem with Sienna Miller and to be honest, she's having a booming year. After this and Foxcatcher I think she's gonna start turning more heads and getting more attention from critics and awards groups alike.
American Sniper may not tell the whole story, but the story Jason Hall's script chooses to tell is good enough for now. If this film were viewed from a strictly neutral position with only the intention of being quality entertainment, it would succeed in droves. Even so, I still walked away liking the flick. And with a much greater respect for the people involved in making it to boot.

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