Film Review: The Controversy around American Sniper

Clint Eastwood’s film American Sniper has created an intense debate, one that I honestly feel is undeserved. On one side, you have the film critics and Hollywood (and American moviegoers) who rave about the movie, which is up for several Oscars. On the other side, you have the Muslim community and your typical liberals (I am one too, but I don’t blindly condemn everything that has a whiff of the Republican) denouncing the film for being racist and glorifying a man who didn’t deserve such attention, not to mention the fact that the Iraq War was stupid. “What was he defending?” One Arab Muslim I talked with asked. “It wasn’t his home.”

After reading all about it in the news I had to go see it in theatres. The movie is good, if a bit long. The scene where the Navy SEALs are eating dinner with an Iraqi and his family and Bradley Cooper discovers weapons under the floorboards is good. Bradley Cooper’s acting is very good. But I wasn’t blown away by it (no pun intended). The audience started obligatorily clapping when (spoiler alert!) Cooper gets his big target (who happens to be a hot Egyptian actor).

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, sourced from ew.com
Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, sourced from ew.com

But really, I don’t get what all the hype is about. I was watching with a critical eye, and I never felt offended for Arabs or Muslims. Sure, the characters make a few jabs, but how is that surprising? It’s realistic. They are soldiers fighting extremists after 9/11. My friend pointed out that the scene where Chris Kyle’s nemesis (also a sniper) grabs the kid of an Iraqi who was trying to help the SEALs and takes a drill to his leg and then head was something that a Muslim would never do. I have to admit, it seems kind of unrealistic–the sniper probably would have either shot the whole family or shot the father, not torture the boy in front of his parents on the street [as he does]. Obviously one cannot make generalizations: just because it seems like a typically un-Muslim move, doesn’t mean there might not be one crazy Muslim who wouldn’t do that. Anything is possible.

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The other two main arguments against the film are that a) Chris Kyle hated Muslims and b) he wasn’t a hero because the USA shouldn’t have been in Iraq in the first place. To the first argument, I can only take people’s words on it, since I haven’t read his autobiography (which is where this information has been gleaned). If he did really hate them, then I do not respect him as a person, but I can’t totally condemn him because everyone is entitled to their opinions, are we not? Yes, he was given a gun and told to shoot the people he hated, so perhaps there was an excess to his work. Should a movie have been made about a man who violently hated a people he was instructed to kill? Yes-and no. A more accurate and honest portrayal of his opinions in the movie would have allowed moviegoers to decide whether or not he was a villain, but Eastwood didn’t include those opinions, giving us a select characterization. Not the best thing to do, but it is a Hollywood movie. I somehow don’t think Eastwood was intending to win over Muslims with the film, or Democrats for that matter, but was instead aiming at Middle America, ordinary Americans.

The second argument I am honestly confused by. At the time America “thought” it was supposed to be in Iraq because Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. Although I think attacking a country before they attack you is a bit preemptive, we’ve had even worse excuses for Korea and Vietnam. Of course, it looks like the whole “weapons of mass destruction” thing was bogus, which completely negates the acceptability of invading Iraq. What is even more unacceptable is that America stayed in Iraq for years…and years…and years…and… The Iraq War was a stupid decision. But it’s nevertheless a reality, a fact, a truth. It happened. And if you are an American, you want our soldiers nevertheless to persevere in battle, even if you don’t agree with the battle being fought.

I don’t believe in preemptive war, and although I would applaud action being taken in Libya, Syria and Iraq now I do NOT think bombing is the best way to go about it AT ALL because innocent civilians are killed. Even though I do not like war or believe in it, I am not going to condemn the soldiers who sign up for it. Sure, if they didn’t sign up maybe there wouldn’t be a war…but there’s always going to be people who like war, this is the goddamn unfortunate truth of humanity. We all want world peace, but deep down there will always be conflict and violence because men cannot stop being greedy and prideful, resources will always be fought over, ideologies will always clash heads and at the end of the day we are still part of the animal kingdom too.

Chris Kyle did what his government told him to do. He did what a soldier is supposed to do. My heart goes out to both the American soldiers and all of the innocent Iraqis who died in the Iraq War. I wish their beautiful country could see a moment of peace. Reality is war, and peace, so the holy books have told us, is heaven.

S-L-M

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