While attending the Washington, DC, premiere of American Sniper held at the Burke Theatre at the U.S. Navy Memorial on Tuesday night, the Vice President of the United States offered his three-word review of the film. “It’s intense, man,” Joe Biden said, before adding that veterans still need our help and deserve our deepest respect. In fact, the vice president enjoyed the film enough that, according to three separate people seated near him, Biden was moved to tears during the film's final sequence. Biden's is one of many positive reviews that American Sniper has earned.
Clint Eastwood’s latest film is racking up a good deal of military support and Oscar buzz—and is also facing pushback from the usual outraged, anti-war suspects.
“I haven’t seen American Sniper, but correct me if I’m wrong: An occupier mows down faceless Iraqis but the real victim is his anguished soul,” tweeted author Max Blumenthal. “The real American Sniper [Navy SEAL Chris Kyle] was a hate-filled killer. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero?” Lindy West wrote at The Guardian. “American Sniper perfectly epitomizes a certain kind of American horseshit,” Michael Atkinson opined at In These Times.
Much of this displeasure is based on resurfaced excerpts from Kyle’s memoir, on which the movie is based. Critics have flagged lines such as, “I couldn’t give a flying fuck about the Iraqis” and “If you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they’re male, shoot ’em. Kill every male you see.”
Kyle has been celebrated as a war hero, and declared the “most lethal” sniper in American military history. In Eastwood’s film, he is played by Oscar-nominated actor Bradley Cooper. And at the DC premiere of American Sniper, he took the time to defend the fallen sniper.
“My hope is that if someone is having a political conversation about whether we should or should not have been in Iraq, whether the war is worth fighting, whether we won, whether we didn’t, why are we still there, all those [issues], that really—I hope—is not one that they would use this movie as a tool for,” Cooper told The Daily Beast, when asked about those targeting Kyle’s temperament. “And for me, and for Clint, this movie was always a character study about what the plight is for a soldier. The guy that I got to know, through all the source material that I read and watched, and home videos—hours and hours—I never saw anything like that. But I can’t control how people are gonna use this movie as a tool, or what they pick and choose whatever they want. But it would be short-changing, I think. If it’s not this movie, I hope to god another movie will come out where it will shed light on the fact of what servicemen and women have to go through, and that we need to pay attention to our vets. It doesn’t go any farther than that. It’s not a political discussion about war, even…It’s a discussion about the reality. And the reality is that people are coming home, and we have to take care of them.”
Cooper then expressed hope that American Sniper not be viewed strictly as an Iraq War movie, but as a more “universal” examination of warriors and their family lives.
“I wouldn’t even put it [just] to Iraq,” Cooper continued. “That happens to be Chris’s story. Our whole idea was to do a character study about a soldier, and a soldier and a family, and what it’s like having to deal with the schizophrenic nature of having to jostle between a home life and being in theater. I think hopefully it could be a universal story.”
Also in attendance were members of Congress, the Bidens, and Taya Kyle, Chris’s widow (played by Sienna Miller).
“I haven’t noticed much of [the criticism], but I think that even Mother Teresa can be criticized by somebody, somewhere, doing it just wanting to spread their own hatred,” she told The Daily Beast. “But the people who knew Chris, and certainly the life that he lived, proved that it’s quite the opposite. He was not a hate-filled person. He was just a man doing his job. There were people who were going to kill his brothers or Iraqi civilians, and he had a choice to make. Either he lets that happen, or he takes on the price of taking somebody else out. I think if we all take it to a personal level and imagine what that must be like, like if you had your family standing there, and I was running at them, would you just let me do that, or would you try to stop me in any way you could? It’s actually a love thing, it’s not a hate thing.”