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Thursday, January 22, 2015

'Sniper' Under Attack (Updated)

Update #8  Iraq vet with must-read piece at New York with words of praise for the film in getting parts the soldiers' experiences there right--but also finding much fault with its "myopia"--and it's certainly not the Iraq war film we still need...And yet another valid and lengthy critique about what film gets wrong from a second Vox writer.  "Its premises are wrong, and its results are dangerous. By feeding that narrative, American Sniper is part of the problem."

Update #7  And now Matt Taibbi joins in, calling the film almost  too "absurd" to critique.  "[T]o turn the Iraq war into a saccharine, almost PG-rated two-hour cinematic diversion about a killing machine with a heart of gold (is there any film theme more perfectly 2015-America than that?) who slowly, very slowly, starts to feel bad after shooting enough women and children – Gump notwithstanding, that was a hard one to see coming.
Sniper is a movie whose politics are so ludicrous and idiotic that under normal circumstances it would be beneath criticism. The only thing that forces us to take it seriously is the extraordinary fact that an almost exactly similar worldview consumed the walnut-sized mind of the president who got us into the war in question....

"Well done, Clint! You made a movie about mass-bloodshed in Iraq that critics pronounced not political! That's as Hollywood as Hollywood gets."

And this important point:  "The thing is, it always looks bad when you criticize a soldier for doing what he's told. It's equally dangerous to be seduced by the pathos and drama of the individual solider's experience, because most wars are about something much larger than that, too."

Update #6  Two more good takes on the dangerous fictions in the film related to the war itself and how Eastwood falsely presents it.  A detailed accounting here from Vox on the "whitewash."

And this piece IDs what it calls the most "pernicious" lie in the film--that the U.S. was fighting "al Qaeda" right from the start of our invasion--not only completely false (no Al Qaeda in Iraq at that point) but also lending credence to Bush and Cheney claims that Saddam had something to do with 9/11 and we had to root out Al Qaeda in Iraq.  That famous scene in movie (and trailer) where Kyle shoots woman happened on his first tour, at the beginning of the invasion, and in the film the enemy is already labeled Al Qaeda.

Plus: Alyssa Rosenberg of the Washington Post finds the film "mediocre" but more than that also misleading and untruthful (see second half of her piece).  See also raises the issue (see below) of ignoring Kyle bragging about killing Americans here at home.

Update #5   Writer at the New Orleans Times-Picayune hits Kyle for his clear lie about shooting 30 bad guys in that city--from the roof of the Superdome.  I've noted it before but good to see it in the city's leading news outlet.

Okay, let's say that Kyle was just gassing about this while drunk--what does this show about this "hero's" make-up to brag about being judge and executioner--of American citizens, not "savage" Iraqis?  This is a question none of his, and the film's, supporters wish to tackle.

More: The Guardian in London fact-checks the film vs. both history and Kyle's own book--and finds it wanting in many aspects.  I'd had pointed out nearly all of this many days ago.

Update #4  New piece hits what's left out of the film and portrayal of U.S. mission--by Marine who served with Kyle in Fallujah.

And a good piece here from Charlie Fink at Medium, which opens by recalling the Liberty Valance line--"When the legend becomes fact print the legend." Goes on to say that since we've apparently learned nothing from our Iraq invasion it could easily happen again tomorrow--after everyone has viewed this movie we'll be ready.  
And truth is gone, banished, most probably for good. We’re not cying about the right things and we are never going to. We lost a war, we destroyed a country, we displaced millions and started what may yet be regarded as World War 3. So far, we suffered five thousand dead, twenty five thousand wounded, and five hundred thousand traumatized. We transferred hundreds of billions of dollars of public wealth into private hands to pay for the war. We could have cured cancer, or world hunger. Instead we destroyed Iraq, for false reasons, at huge cost to us. We remain bogged down in Afghanistan. We are on our way back to Iraq. And so there will be more Chris Kyles, and more killing, and more transfer of wealth.
A bit of a backlash developing in Hollywood over making a "sociopath" a "super hero."

Update #3  Film gets Oscar nod for Best Picture for Actor Bradley Cooper.  Now Cooper again offers bullshit defense of film, explaining again that it is "not political" and not really about Iraq, so ignore that, brother.  Just a "character" study.  Yes, true, but in ways he may not realize.     Then Kyle's widow says, hey, even Mother Teresa gets criticized.  And, about Kyle's many lies after returning home....

Update #2  Good Salon piece by Laura Miller on Kyle, as revealed in his memoir. 

Update:  Among other things, we also now know that Eastwood and star Bradley Cooper both went to Texas to assure Kyle's father that their film would do nothing to hurt his son's reputation at all--which they apparently lived up to.  The dad says he told them he would "unleash hell" on Eastwood if he went back on his promise.  

Earlier:  Let me say quickly that I have not seen Eastwood's new American Sniper, but I have read a bunch of reviews and I get the drift.  But let me also emphasize that my views my change somewhat if I see the film.  And Kyle no doubt had some good post-war virtues.  But to begin:

Given the horrid number of Iraqi civilians killed by U.S. gunmen one has to wonder how many of the record-setting victims of his marksmanship fell into that category--though not hinted at in the film, apparently.  We do see him offing a mother and child--but she has, of course, just handed the boy a bomb.  The film, from the reviews,  even goes so far as to suggest that the vast majority of the bad guys were "al-Qaeda" which is absurd given the al-Qaeda numbers there--but it's necessary to emphasize the revenge-for-9/11 focus.  Also the film apparently does not raise questions about sniper Chris Kyle's treatment for many of the PTSD vets he tried to aid--you know, take them to a firing range for fun (which led to his death and, it must be noted, that of another man).  Kyle's widow, however, claims that the man who shot her husband--and the other victim--was not suffering from PTSD.

In the book that inspired the film Kyle bragged that he  “hated the damn savages” he was fighting. He recounts telling an Army colonel, “I don’t shoot people with Korans. I’d like to, but I don’t.”   A New Yorker profile called him part lawman, part "executioner."  Yes, he did have some good qualities, too, in aiding vets he didn't take to rifle ranges.  But as A.O. Scott of the NYT wrote, "And though George W. Bush's name is never invoked, American Sniper can be seen as an expression of nostalgia for his Manichaean approach to foreign policy."

Even a conservative National Review writer has hit another (alleged) media-promoted Kyle myth--that he and his widow donated all or most of the massive profits from his book to help vets.

Finally, here is a Washington Post piece from a few months back looking at his post-Iraq lies or exaggerations and one has to wonder about his record in the war as well.    He claimed he climbed on top of the Superdown in NOLA and shot 30 bad guys from there after Katrina.  Killed a couple of others or more elsewhere.   Police and reporters can't find any of the dead.  Claimed he punched out Jesse Ventura in a bar--while Jesse was in a wheelchair, no less--and lost a million dollar lawsuit (since affirmed a couple of times since this article) for seemingly making it all up.  And so on. You won't see any of that in the Eastwood epilog.

Kyle, of course, became a prominent anti-gun control advocate and claimed Obama mild opposition to assault rifles was move to take away all gun rights and other rights. 

Lengthy post here adds a couple other alleged Kyle lies to the mix and much more. This review raises other questions about Eastwood dropping all of the troubling Kyle claims and deadly quotes--making him a more sympathetic hero but not the real Kyle (in that view).


Anonymous said...

Eastwood is just cashing in on the values of our pirate nation. Like the president said to the marines the other day, because of their efforts over the last decade, “the world is better, it’s safer, it’s more peaceful, it’s more prosperous". Guess we should thank the snipers too for putting a little money in our pockets.

Documnetary Films said...

Snipers are cool..

sanford said...

I have not seen the movie either. You really have to take any true or biographical story with a grain of salt. You have two hours or so to tell a story and directors or who ever writes the script is going to take some dramatic license. That even goes for a book of fiction.