Archive for November, 2017

American Sniper (Clint Eastwood) 2014

Posted in What I've Seen This Week on November 27, 2017 by moviemoses

Me and the war have not been on good terms in recent years to put it lightly. From the reasons we started the war to human rights violations that have gone on even through the Obama years (and this is by no means a comprehensive list), I could go on for hours. So when the prospect of a Chris Kyle movie coming out I gave a quick pass. Nothing about Kyle’s politics or Eastwood’s for that matter seem like they would be opposed to the war and word of mouth didn’t necessarily help it. But its been years, and some people have tried to educate me on the anti-war sentiment of this movie. So with that in mind and a genuine interest in seeing a good movie, here are my thoughts on American Sniper.

First off, let’s talk about the technical bits before going into the meat of the story. Clint Eastwood’s direction is superb. I wasn’t sure how the usually reserved Eastwood (direction wise at least) would shoot the frenetic action of this war. The man’s work profile is so extensive you (or at least I embarrassingly) may forget he’s worked on war movies previously with Flags of our Fathers, Letters from Iwo Jima and to a lesser extent Heartbreak Ridge. The action scenes are exciting and the scenes of Kyle sniping provide a tense contrast where their tension is wrung out for all its worth. The sound design and music are both excellent. I am getting tired of Eastwood’s fascination with desaturization of colors as he seems to be the only person to make the bright desert dull and gray but that’s just my opinion. And finally we get to Bradley Cooper who really does give a great performance as Chris Kyle. He has the usual Cooper charm but in this movie he has to do a lot of emoting with his face; especially in scenes where he’s looking down a sniper scope. This, maybe more than other movies he’s done has sold me on his acting. So from all the technical aspects this movie is a thumbs up.

Now we get to the heart of the review which is the story. To start let me talk about the decision to make a movie about Chris Kyle. Its problematic to say the least. Proof of this comes from the huge debate that was sparked about Kyle’s life as the movie was being released. This is a man who lied about some pretty big things, stated he enjoyed killing, and who referred to Middle Eastern people as “savages”. It would be like making a movie about Hollywood and framing it as a biopic of Kevin Spacey. I’m not saying it couldn’t be done well, but again, its problematic. I think the best course of action would have been to make this story about a fictional character so you didn’t have the personal politics of Chris Kyle drawing attention away from your movie. On some level, Eastwood seems to agree with me as he fictionalizes parts of Kyle’s life. There is no Mustafa and the whole climax around killing him is bullshit. So just go full out and make him a completely different character.

But let’s say I just do that. Let’s say for the purposes of this review I make the character into a fictional one and distance it from Chris Kyle. How does the story play out then? As I mentioned before I have heard people try to say the movie has a powerful anti-war message. You have Kyle who was raised to value God, family, and country, and you have a war that is systematically destroying all those values. This isn’t as simple as “wolves” and “sheepdogs” as Kyle has to make horrifying decisions in a war that is not simple good and evil. I get it, I just still don’t buy it. I could start by saying at this moment I personally don’t believe there is such thing as an anti-war movie. That no matter how hard you try, you end up glorifying some part of war. I won’t simply say that as a blanket condemnation of the movie. Instead I will just say that in my viewing the movie, it comes across as very simplistic in its depictions of peoples. The Americans are righteous, god fearing good guys trying to bring peace, and the Middle Easterners are for the most part evil drill/bomb wielding sociopaths. It comes off as propaganda to me at times and I don’t think its me either. In speaking with my friends about it they got that impression to and in the aftermath of the movie, and it was reported that threats against Muslims increased in America. It may have been Eastwood’s intent to make a personal anti-war movie, but the execution feels like something different.

There is one last part to the movie that almost salvages it and that is the depiction of PTSD in combat veterans. This is also something that has stuck out in reviewers as being good and I can agree. So much so that I feel the movie should have just been a personal movie about soldiers dealing with PTSD. As it is it takes up a minority of the movie and majority comes down to Kyle hunting for Mustafa.

American Sniper is technically speaking a very well made movie. The direction, sound design, music, and acting, are all top notch. That does not change the fact that at the heart of this movie is a story about a soldier that is problematic to say the least and can be offensive to say the worst. I think Eastwood tried to make a movie divorced from hot button issues and make an apolitical movie about a soldier with PTSD. I don’t believe he succeeded though.

Posted in What I've Seen This Week on November 27, 2017 by moviemoses

I’ve been away from the blog for a long time but that doesn’t mean I’ve gone away from writing.  I’ve been doing mini reviews for my Facebook to keep in the habit.  I initially didn’t want to include them in my blog because I tend to put more effort into my blog posts and what I tended to write on Facebook were just simple thoughts.  But lately I’ve seen no reason to exclude them and only remark to people that these are just my initial thoughts on a movie in case you guys were interested.  So I hope you enjoy these mini reviews.