Alright, I said I’d had my fill of biopics, but I wound up going to see “American Sniper” with a vague idea it was inspired by real events. In fact, it’s based on an autobiography of almost the same name plus “the most lethal sniper in US military history”(!)
Not that I knew about the book until after the end, when the fact it purported to be the life of a real person sank in. That spoiled it a bit; what spoiled it even more was learning that the person in question is viewed by some as an extreme right-winger. Naturally I went running to wikipedia.
Here is the results so far, with MILD SPOILERS to middle of film: wikipedia says he uses “politically incorrect” language in his autobiography, but no mention of general right-wing views. It does not mention a duel with an enemy elite sniper. However, the biggest glaring change is this: in the film, he is shown as modest. He cringes in an almost British way from one person telling him how great he is. In reality, Chris Kyle wrote the book with the self-aggrandizing title.
Does it matter? Well, my whole point is it does matter, because it’s apparently the story of a real person. That real person can be used as figurehead for political viewpoints and attitudes even when they don’t express them themselves. You might like a fictional character but dislike them in real life. It means that people may form opinions of real-life situations based on the film, whereas otherwise they would simply see it as someone’s possibly-second hand view of the war.
The film itself is the loser in this. It might be criticised for being one-sided, but it’s not trying to explore both sides of the situation. Indeed my friend pointed out that if director Clint Eastwood did explore the other side, he might be accused of repeating himself from “Flags of our Fathers/Letters from Iwo Jima”. Like the title implies, it’s the story of one man, the American Sniper, who was on one side. As for a supposed lack of depth on the part of his wife, it’s a character study of a man who becomes isolated from his home and family by his experiences, and so maybe that’s part of the point.
Other critics have thought it was both a moving mediatation on war, and hailed it as a patriot-fest, so that’s a sign it has been even-handed. Clint’s reported views are that he did not approve of the war but has a lot of time for Veterans whatever, and that “a lot of things happen in war zones.” He’s right about that. He has made a good war film and a good story film. It’s just a shame that it was based on an autobiography not just “inspired by real events.”
(If anyone has noticed clumsy use of tenses and languages in this, it’s because I am trying to avoid another spoiler… if you have read to this point and been observant, I have just given it away anyway).