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1.28.2015

A Few Thoughts on American Sniper

I'd like to go see American Sniper (2015). I love Clint Eastwood's films, and I'm interested to see Bradley Cooper's acting chops. The Oscar buzz is, of course, another aspect that piques my interest.

It's a curious film, one that is smashing box office records while igniting what has been described in The Washington Times as a new round of culture wars. 

Biopics are, by definition, designed to portray true events. AFI has an interesting piece on the genre (though dealing with James Brown and not Chris Kyle). I went to AS's official Web site, looking for the studio's own phrasing on how they're labeling the film. Is it a true biopic, or did the writers and producers cherry pick the events for Hollywood? Did they dramatize some details while leaving others out? If so, then calling it a biopic might be a stretch. 

Perhaps as a testament to the film's interest, the site wouldn't load. 

War films are tricky. Perhaps more than any other genre, these films inspire discussion and shape our collective understanding of the pivotal moments of our era. In that way, they bear the greatest informative scrutiny for their care in how they depict conflict--in how they mediate death and destruction in the light of winning and losing. 

It's a tough task, to be sure.

Kyle lived an extraordinary life in a very volatile period in human history. He wrote about his experiences in his memoir, and we can contrast that book with the findings advanced in such studies as the 9/11 Commission Report in order to get a fuller picture of what happened in Iraq and how our soldiers were forced to deal with combat. 

As is the case with most of these contentious political debates, there's probably multiple truth values embedded in this discussion, and it's on each of us to make sense of the material for ourselves. I hope to see the film soon, and I'm looking at it for both entertainment and contextual purposes. A film can be entertaining, by the way, without traipsing into the realm of propaganda.

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