Wednesday, June 3, 2015

American Sniper (2014)

Last night I watched American Sniper. The film was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper (as Chris Kyle) and Siena Miller (as his wife).

Kyle was a Navy Seal who, during four tours of duty in Iraq, became the most lethal sniper in US military history; he killed at least 160 Iraqis. I remember learning about Kyle's death in 2013, when a fellow veteran (whom he was attempting to help) shot him at a shooting range. I remember thinking that his death seemed a tremendous irony, and I also recall that there was some controversy at the time about the details of his biography.

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American Sniper is a fine movie, but overall I was a bit disappointed. I don't think it broke any new ground in terms of its human-emotional or political narratives about the Iraq War and its effect on combatants (of both sides).

Over the course of the movie, Kyle begins to question his personal motivation for fighting, which was reminiscent of The Hurt Locker. The way that he prioritized his brothers-in-arms over his wife and family also reminded me of The Hurt Locker.

In terms of the larger geopolitical questions about America's involvement in Iraq, I think Generation Kill raised more questions and better conveyed a sense of moral ambiguity.

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598. I think American Sniper has been the most commercially successful of the post-September 11th films, and I wonder why it captured people's imaginations more than other (better-done) movies? I'm sure part of it has to do with Bradley Cooper being more of a "Type A Hollywood Hero" than the other leading actors, but why else was this movie so popular?

599. How many American soldiers have died in Iraq in 2015? I remember that a helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan earlier this year, but have there been any casualties in Iraq?

After watching American Sniper, I was curious about the historical authenticity of the Syrian sniper Mustafa, who Kyle pursues for several years. I gather that there was a sniper who had competed in the Olympics for Syria, but that the interweaving of Kyle and Mustafa's stories was more of a narrative artifice.


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