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‘American Sniper’ shoots itself in the foot

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‘American Sniper’ shoots itself in the foot

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“American Sniper” has grossed over $300 million domestically, and yet won only a single Oscarlast month – for sound editing. While some protest the less-than-stellar performance of the film at the event, the reasons for its loss of “b’est picture” are justifiable.

The movie follows Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in American military history, through his four tours in Iraq, from his Texas-cowboy days to his murder at the hands of a fellow veteran. “American Sniper” was based on Kyle’s autobiography of the same name, which was released in 2012.

The first issue with the movie arises from its “factual” basis: the book. In it, Kyle recounts his memories from the Iraq war, but also claims that he was paid by the government during Hurricane Katrina to shoot looters from the Superdome. This, and other outlandish claims were made in the book, including the fact that he supposedly sniped two carjackers in Texas. While these more suspect memories were not depicted in the film, they call into question the validity of any of Kyle’s stories.

Another problem with the film is its propagandized depiction of Kyle as a war hero. Yes, he served the United States abroad on four separate occasions. He had to make hard decisions. He sacrificed many things, as did his family. However, the film failed to depict the darker side of Kyle.

Entertainment Weekly summarized Kyle’s autobiography, and said that “while he hesitates before his first sniper kill, that is the only instance of doubt he records.” As a man with 160 confirmed kills, it is telling that there is but one instance of doubt in his book. Maybe that’s the cold reality of how a soldier must be, but to many, including myself, it seems unsettlingly heartless.

Nevertheless, the film depicts him as a struggling hero who is reluctant to pull the trigger. Meanwhile, the Iraqi natives are a collectively and intensely savage and cruel people in the movie. In typical American fashion, it aggrandizes our “rightful” struggle overseas and demonizes our opponents.

While the sound-editing in the movie might have been stellar, the film’s weaknesses are too central to its plot to have merited the Best Picture award.

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