by Emily Engle
Starring Bradley Cooper as the Navy SEAL sharpshooter Chris Kyle who racked up more than 160 confirmed kills during his time in Iraq, American Sniper tells Kyle’s story and with each weekend that it plays in theaters, it is only growing in both popularity and controversy. The R-rated film is already nominated for both 6 Oscars and 6 Academy awards and has earned more than $250 million at the box office.
Kyle is touted as the US Army’s deadliest sniper ever; he was both praised and criticized for his unflinching ability to kill. Kyle died in 2013 after a fatal gunshot from Army veteran Eddie Routh. This combination of praise and criticism that followed Kyle throughout his career have now flowed over into critiques of the movie, with many viewers finding the film incredibly patriotic and fitting of a hero while just as many find it a despicable glorification of his behavior.
The controversy ultimately can be summarized by arguably some of the top political debates today: gun rights and the war on terror.
Those in favor of the movie see Kyle as a great American hero who protected the US from the “bad guys.” According to the Washington Post, Bill Maher describes Kyle as a “psychopath patriot” but “exceptionally selfless [and] with honor and integrity.” Screenwriter Jason Hall views Kyle as a tragic hero who gave up “his physical health, his mental health and almost [his] family.”
On the other side of the debate, however, many Americans are disgusted with the idolization of Kyle’s actions; they view the generalization of the Middle East as simply “the bad guys” too simplified – and a death sentence to the thousands of civilians caught in the crossfire. Comedian Seth Rogen, after viewing Sniper, tweeted that it was similar to a scene in Inglourious Basterds in which a WWII German sniper picked off enemies just as Kyle did.
After Rogen’s tweet, the Internet nearly exploded with the film’s supporters decrying his lack of patriotism and appreciation for the sacrifice soldiers have provided for our freedoms. Further still, Rogen was accused of perpetuating Nazi propaganda and according to The New York Times, Sarah Palin retorted, “Hollywood leftists [spit] on the graves of freedom fighters who allow you to do what you do.”
Regardless of the criticism accusing American Sniper of only highlighting the War on Terror’s wasted time and money as well as its high casualty rate with little progress, Sniper is still earning nearly record-breaking profits at the office.