LOS ANGELES, January 29, 2015 − Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper,” the film about Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s life and four Iraq military tours, has been taking down box office records right and left. According to Box Office Mojo, the film grossed $89 million in its first weekend, and another 64 million in its second weekend. With a worldwide gross of over $260 million, it shows no signs of losing steam.
War movies, especially Iraq war movies, rarely fare well at the box office. So with this film’s unprecedented success comes the predictable parade of haters. From film reviews by certain writers who have only viewed the film’s trailer; to takedown pieces in the Washington Post about unverified stories that Kyle supposedly spread (but were not documented in his book); to low-blows on Twitter by irrelevant Fahrenheit 911 director Michael Moore−once an anti-war darling, now just another has-been searching for relevance−there seems to be a concerted campaign to diminish not only the film, but the life and legacy of a man whom many consider to be a hero and a legend.
Even former Vermont governor and presidential candidate Howard Dean chose to weigh in on the film as a panelist on HBO’s Real Time with Bill Maher:
“There’s a lot of anger in this country, and the people who go see this movie are people who are very angry. This guy [referring to the late Chris Kyle] basically says, ‘I’m going to fight on your side.’ I bet you if you looked at the cross-section of the tea party and people who see this movie there’s a lot of intersection.”
Dean has since apologized to veterans (but not to “right-wing nut jobs”), for his remarks. But the conflation continues. It seems the anti-war Left and Hollywood elite are determined to parse the Iraq War and supposed right-wing sentiment out of a movie about the life and death of a man who served his country with skill and exceptionalism, protected his fellow soldiers along with untold numbers of Iraqi civilians, and became a veterans’ advocate and devoted husband and father upon his retirement.
One New York critic titles his high-handed piece: “‘American Sniper’ Takes Apart the Myth of the American Warrior.” Really? This writer did not notice Mythbusters’ Jamie Hyneman or Adam Savage anywhere in the two hours and 12 minutes of the film testing out the myth of “the American Warrior.”
What is actually seen in the film is a portrait of a man who rose to the challenge and horrors of combat and became a warrior, and equally rose to the challenge and change to civilian life and conquered that as well. But success of this kind leaves a bad taste in Hollywood’s and the Left’s mouths. They love the damaged goods of “Born on the Fourth of July,” “Platoon,” and “Coming Home,” but dispute and despise anyone who shows a different side of the story.
Once having actually seen the film, it becomes clear that most of the critics and naysayers get it totally wrong. Clint Eastwood is not creating myth and legend with his film. Chris Kyle was already a legend among his fellow warriors and to those who knew him. Eastwood simply translated this to the screen.
You cannot manufacture this type of authentic heroism, nor can you deny it. People recognize the real deal, and that is what is resonating with audiences: the real hero of conviction with a human face. It’s touchable, which is probably why “American Sniper” continues to gain a following and remain a subject of debate.
The interesting component in all this is that Hollywood actually works exceptionally hard at manufacturing cinema heroes. They purchase and rehash comic books properties, and try to create instant heroism packaged in more violence than you will ever see in this film. Examples of such heroes abound, ranging from the John McClanes (“Die Hard” franchise) to the Bryan Mills (“Taken” franchise). It is strange, then that when the real deal comes along−a real-life hero that young men and women could not only admire,but actually emulate−Hollywood simply cannot fathom it. When the authentic hero does not fit their ideological framework, they have to criticize him, all the while greasing their pockets with the cash they get from the film’s success.
Steve Pond of The Wrap wonders about this in his article, “Should Clint Eastwood Be Celebrating a ‘Killer’? But as a producer friend accurately pointed out, Hollywood celebrates killers all the time. Every Quentin Tarantino or Martin Scorsese film that wins awards, praise, and box office dollars proves this.
Bottom line: all this carefully manufactured criticism of Chris Kyle’s violence and pathology is the height of Hollywood-style hypocrisy.
Hollywood and many of its friends on the Left are deliberately conflating and tearing down “American Sniper” because most of them hated the Iraq War. Likewise, they also hate Chris Kyle’s unapologetic stance of being proud to have served his country honorably in said war.
Much of what is written today is an attempt to re-litigate a war, a hated president, a political party and a stance that has been discussed, debated, and digested ad infinitum, rather than truly and objectively assessing the sobering, nuanced, and sometimes tragic tale of a man who served his country with distinction, rebuilt his life and marriage after retirement, and undertook significant work to help other veterans do the same up until the day of his tragic death.
These biased and uncritical attacks do Chris Kyle and the men and women of our armed forces a serious disservice. But we can only conclude that this is the underlying agenda of such criticism in the first place.