American Sniper update













American Sniper dropped 27% in its fifth weekend for a gross of $64 million. For the sake of comparison, Selma dropped 37% and Into the Woods dropped 42%, also in their fifth weekends. (Birdman and The Theory of Everything got “Oscar bumps” and rose 24% and 33%, respectively.) American Sniper‘s gross is now $200 million, $60 million beyond Gran Torino, Eastwood’s previously highest-grossing movie.

What accounts for the success of American Sniper? The slender percentage drop indicates that some people are going to see it more than once, which astonishes me, because frankly it’s a tough sit. It’s brutal and tense and upsetting. And then there’s the plastic baby.

Some would say that this is an indicator that people are idiots, that white Americans (the flyover states) are lapping up this propagandistic swill foisted upon them, or using the movie as a Muslim-hating cocktail to help themselves feel good about their prejudices, and that soon there will be widespread murders of Muslims in the US and another war in the Mideast, all thanks to this dangerous lie of a movie.

(In addition to its success with middle-American racist gun-toting yahoos, American Sniper has also set records in Australia, Italy, New Zealand and the UK, proving, I guess, that everyone hates Muslims more than they hate the US.)

As far as Middle America goes, I think it’s just been a long time since those folks have seen themselves portrayed positively on screen. The Iraq war is a controversial subject, and it’s one that affected Middle America deeply, and now here is a movie that dramatizes the sacrifices made by “one of their own” and addresses the agony they experienced of that war, from their point of view.

Is it the last word on the Iraq war? Gosh, I hope not. Is it a complete picture of the Iraq war? Certainly not. Does it accurately reflect the life of its protagonist? I have no idea. Hell, it doesn’t even accurately reflect the book it’s based on.

I honestly have no idea how the “true story of Chris Kyle” has anything to do with American Sniper. Biographical drama has never had anything to do with the “true story” of anything. Currently on screen, Alan Turing invents the computer all by himself, John du Pont is a closeted gay sexual predator, Stephen Hawking is a lovable clown and Lyndon Johnson is a bitter enemy of Martin Luther King. All these movies use historical persons to make dramatic points. There’s no such thing as an “accurate biographical drama.” It just doesn’t exist. Braveheart rewrote Scottish history, Cleopatra rewrote Egyptian history and 1776 completely sidesteps Thomas Jefferson’s affair with his slave mistress. So what? What makes American Sniper a “dangerous lie?”

If a person is angry about US foreign policy and the prosecution of the Iraq conflict, I’m right there with them, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with American Sniper. It’s exactly the same as when conservatives get all bent out of shape by a movie they think illustrates why America is doomed. If you think that American Sniper is responsible anti-Muslim hatred, then you have to admit that A Clockwork Orange is responsible for teen violence.

PS: The interesting thing about Seth Rogen’s comment about how American Sniper resembles a propaganda movie is that his own movie, The Interview, was, in fact, vetted, okayed and supported by the US government as a useful propaganda tool against North Korea.

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4 Responses to “American Sniper update”
  1. Jason-L says:

    I continue to think about this film, and I’ve been reading many different articles about it.

    I can only conclude that the film is so successful because it is all things to all people. It’s pro and anti war. It’s against and for the Iraq war. It shows the cost of war, and the glory of war. It’s an argument for and against violence. It’s propaganda or its a film with an important message. It’s fiction or truth. But all of it is presented in a way that is subtle, so that the message and meaning of the film never has dissonance. It conforms to your expectations going in, and let’s you leave feeling like you were right.

  2. Jon says:

    Hey Todd,

    I don’t have anything to contribute to the American Sniper conversation (sorry, haven’t seen it yet), but I did want to inquire whether you were planning on writing anything about the Venture Bros special that aired last week.

  3. MIke M says:

    Iowan here. It seems some people think watching this movie is some kind of patriotic duty, which is weird. It’s not like the movie ever marketed itself as such. I believe it was the controversy itself that pushed them that way. Those “obligated viewers” are the same ones who identify as the worst kind of stereotypical conservative. So when they hear that vague Anti-American Liberal Media Types™ are lambasting the movie they think it must be their duty to defend it.

    It’s not really a whole lot of people, but I think they’re the ones going back in groups again and again.