Escape to the Movies: American Sniper - An Empty War Film

Kaihlik

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ecoho said:
Bob going to level with you, I think you should stop reviewing this type of movie (if there is another option of course) you come off a bit strong in your feelings one way or the other. Was really hoping to see a review of unbroken due to there being a less political feeling of it for you and others, but hey what do I know.
Its kind of a fallacy to say that because he has acknowledged political biases that he shouldn't review movies that have an opposing or even not complimentary political message (in this case the film refusing to take an overt political stance is in opposition to Bobs strong anti war/propaganda stance). As he said he felt that it didn't work as a narrative film but could very well have worked as a documentary which I think is a perfectly valid criticism (I haven't seen it to agree or disagree but its a valid point to make). I think there was probably messages that could have been taken from the original text (again I haven't read it I'm just speculating) that would have allowed it to work as a more coherent narrative in Bobs eyes even if he would have strongly disagreed with those messages. Its important for critics to be able to criticize any art, it is there job to give their opinions in order to help you make up your mind on a piece of work. Whether that is making up your mind to go see it based on finding critics with a similar taste as you or by digging deeper into that piece or coming at it from a different angle in order to help you decide what you think the messages of the piece are.

Sorry this is kind of ranty and I wasn't really intending it to be, this is more my thoughts on critique that got splurged on the page rather than an attack on you.
 

RaikuFA

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I was hoping he'd review "Unbroken" and the header would hopefully say "One big ego trip for Angelina Jolie".
 

JustMakingAComment

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Bob, your review was poorly made. That's unusual, because you know better. You didn't like the film, but rather than just say that, you claimed that there was a problem -- that the film didn't show you want you wanted to see or tell you what you wanted to hear. As if that was required of any film, much less one about a real person.

1. People's lives are not stories and do not wrap up everything neatly.

2. The "objective" format of documentaries is not an inherently more valid or appropriate way to render a person's life in film.

3. Snipers have a job that is morally and psychologically complicated. It would be a mistake to either glorify or vilify them. Such material tends to be explored well in books like Kyle's. I recommend both Kyle's and Carlos Hathcock's books.

Many people loudly protested that war while it was happening. You seem to be covering yourself in martyr's blood, so that any criticism of your review can be delegitimized as politically-intolerant censure.
 

Mad Sun

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Movies are meant to have stories. Stories are meant to have structure. Writing off criticism for a movie with no structure by saying it's supposed to be that way because life stories don't have structure is like writing off criticism of a journalist by saying he's a blogger. If a person's entire life in totally unstructured, then a story should not be told recounting a person's entire life, especially if all you're going to do is briefly go over the events. It'd be like if your parents told you a bedtime story where the main character just "did this, and then this, and then that, the end," without going into any detail of what this or that was.

Now, if it was a movie/story about a specific event in his life, detailing how he struggled through that one event, then it would have the beginnings of a good story. He wouldn't even necessarily have to grow as a person, he would merely have to succeed, or fail at the end depending on whatever the real event was in his life. Otherwise, there's simply no point. If you simply wanted to know the facts, then you might as well go read the book, as Bob suggested.
 

RiseUp

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Uriel_Hayabusa said:
I haven't seen American Sniper myself yet, but the main thrust of Bob's complaint seems incredibly silly to me. How is it a bad thing that a movie which purports to be based on a true story actually sticks to the true story? I think that should be lauded, not criticized.
I disagree. I think that like Eastwood's similarly bad "J. Edgar", not having any theme or point to make outside of simply presenting the beats of a story can lead to inconsistent presentation and a film that lacks any effect on its audience. Producing a film simply to retell a story without anything to SAY defeats the purpose of cinematic adaptation (in my humble opinion, of course).
 

mrdude2010

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Uriel_Hayabusa said:
I haven't seen American Sniper myself yet, but the main thrust of Bob's complaint seems incredibly silly to me. How is it a bad thing that a movie which purports to be based on a true story actually sticks to the true story? I think that should be lauded, not criticized.
Life doesn't always lead to nice, coherent, narrative arcs, but you can stick to all the facts, keep it a true story and still create a film that reflects the essence of the person you're portraying. The fact of the matter is, the way the movie plays out is just not that interesting. It's a true story, but one devoid of any character or context. Chris Kyle lived an amazing life, but a movie that lacks any sort of narrative is usually not going to be that interesting to watch, and the movie avoided giving his story any sort of engaging structure. That's perfectly appropriate for a documentary, but this isn't a documentary.
 

Uriel_Hayabusa

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OhNoYouDidnt said:
Whilst it is true that the Taliban are hardly a band of saints, there is a difference between "a negative depiction" and "the guy tortures children with a power drill, keeps a bakery full of human body parts and in general acts so cartoonishly evil he should've pledged COBRA instead of al-Qaidah."

I hope you realise that.
You can bet that the idea of terrorists hijacking several airliners and flying them into a skyscraper in broad daylight would've sounded far-fetched or ''super-villainy'' before the events of 9/11. Yet that happend in real freakin' life.

RiseUp said:
Producing a film simply to retell a story without anything to SAY with it defeats the purpose of cinematic adaptation (in my humble opinion, of course).
If the film in question is explicitly marketed as based on a true story then ''simply'' retelling it is the best way to go. How exactly does that ''defeat the purpose of a cinematic adaptation''? If anything, far too many movies that purport to be based on a true story are largely made up out of whole cloth (or Very Loosely Based On A True Story as they say on TVtropes). That defeats the purpose of a cinematic adaptation of actual events that took place if you ask me.

mrdude2010 said:
a movie that lacks any sort of narrative is usually not going to be that interesting to watch, and the movie avoided giving his story any sort of engaging structure. That's perfectly appropriate for a documentary, but this isn't a documentary.
It may not be interesting to you, but it might to others. Besides, plenty of movies try to have an unconventional narrative structure and sometimes that leads to great results. I don't know if that's the case with American Sniper since - as I said - I've not seen it yet; but I still think it's utterly silly to criticize a movie that's based on a real person's story for not injecting said story with messages or sentiments that the real person in question may or may not have agreed with.
 

mrdude2010

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Uriel_Hayabusa said:
It may not be interesting to you, but it might to others. Besides, plenty of movies try to have an unconventional narrative structure and sometimes that leads to great results. I don't know if that's the case with American Sniper since - as I said - I've not seen it yet; but I still think it's utterly silly to criticize a movie that's based on a real person's story for not injecting said story with messages or sentiments that the real person in question may or may not have agreed with.
"Unconventional narrative structure" is pretty different from "absolutely no narrative structure at all." Memento had an unconventional narrative structure, this film did not. The film is a collection of events rather than a story. It's not that they didn't inject messages into the guy's story, it's that there's no story at all. It's straight up a bad film. There are plenty of films that are interesting to some people, but that doesn't make them good films. You haven't seen it, so why are you insistent on defending it?
 

SnakeoilSage

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I don't think there's anything wrong with not liking a war film, even one about a real-live person. You're not critiquing the war, you're critiquing a film, and if the filmmakers or anyone else wants to label you as somehow un-American or un-patriotic, then they're using real events as a safety blanket to get away with making a bad movie--a movie they stand to profit from--and they deserve to be called out on it.
 

gorfias

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I think they've been making bad movies about the aftermath of 9/11 for some time. Take for instance,

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/lions_for_lambs/

American Sniper seems to be doing better.

http://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/american_sniper/

Not sure if this is must see for me though. Sounds like bran. Good for me, but hardly tasty.
 

Moeez

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Gordon_4 said:
ravenshrike said:
So basically MovieBob whines that Clint Eastwood decided to do one thing. Namely, tell the story of a man's life. He didn't decide to insert meaning where there wasn't any and for MovieBob this is a Big Deal.
I think it's a fair criticism of a movie made to entertain; had Eastwood simply wished to do a Cromwell-esque, warts n' all look at the man then a documentary detailing his life and bolstered with the opinions, observations and anecdotes of those closest to him.

I'd still like to see it because frankly, the trailer is incredibly well made and I like Bradley Cooper.
The trailer is great BECAUSE there is a hint that it'll be a remorseful tense film about the weight of such actions and discussing the depressing return of a war vet. I'd say people will be disappointed if they see the movie because of the trailer since it hints to much more when there doesn't seem to be any in the final film.

I think Christian Bale portrayed the PTSD and an aimless life after coming back really well in Harsh Times, David Ayer's directorial debut. Very underrated film.
 

hentropy

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I haven't seen the film so I won't make any comment on whether I think Bob is right about any of the things he says about the movie. Critics seem to be leaning toward positive but it isn't overwhelming in any way.

My yardstick for these kinds of movies is usually Patton. A movie that depicts a person in a point in time, and people argue whether it's pro or anti-Patton, but I think most agree it was displaying a complicated man who made quite a few decisions and had a certain personality that most might find interesting, if nothing else.

If American Sniper falls flat (which, again, I'm not saying it is or is not) it might be because the subject matter itself isn't right for this kind of movie. He was a guy who went to war, got messed up a little, came back, and got help for the problems he had. There's not much there to really debate or discuss, he did what he had to to keep himself and his fellow servicemen safe. It might be interesting if there was some huge controversial kill he made that he maybe would have had to answer for.

I suppose the closest thing one can compare it to is Zero Dark Thirty- despite being a little-fluff depiction of what (allegedly) happened, it still managed to be a personal story about one woman's emotional and psychological journey. Osama bin Laden being simply a job- an important one, sure, but more of an assignment. Over time it became personal, and then an obsession, something she had to fight for herself. It's partially what made it so compelling. There was a personal conflict and struggle.

I'm not sure if American Sniper has a similar theme or not, but from what I saw in his biography and from the previews he never felt much remorse for what he did, with most of the issues coming from PTSD of being nearly killed repeatedly and survivor's guilt.
 

Gordon_4_v1legacy

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Has anyone read his book? If my interest is in learning about the man through his own thoughts, would I be better off just reading it?

Captcha: open season

Oh that's just tacky.
 

VonBrewskie

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That was scorching Bob. You were nothing but in support of an American patriot in that review, in my opinion. You saw a movie cashing in on a guy who did his job better than anyone else and called it out for the shallow tripe it was. I think you should be applauded Bob.
 

rbstewart7263

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OhNoYouDidnt said:
Uriel_Hayabusa said:
Oh, and I hope Bob feels at least a little bit silly to refer to a negative depiction of a Taliban-terrorist as a ''super-villain'' considering all the horrible things the Taliban do and have done. The 2014 Peshawar school massacre is a chilling reminder of that.
Whilst it is true that the Taliban are hardly a band of saints, there is a difference between "a negative depiction" and "the guy tortures children with a power drill, keeps a bakery full of human body parts and in general acts so cartoonishly evil he should've pledged COBRA instead of al-Qaidah."

I hope you realise that.
but is this a depiction or is that how he was? thats the real question.
 

rbstewart7263

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mrdude2010 said:
Uriel_Hayabusa said:
I haven't seen American Sniper myself yet, but the main thrust of Bob's complaint seems incredibly silly to me. How is it a bad thing that a movie which purports to be based on a true story actually sticks to the true story? I think that should be lauded, not criticized.
Life doesn't always lead to nice, coherent, narrative arcs, but you can stick to all the facts, keep it a true story and still create a film that reflects the essence of the person you're portraying. The fact of the matter is, the way the movie plays out is just not that interesting. It's a true story, but one devoid of any character or context. Chris Kyle lived an amazing life, but a movie that lacks any sort of narrative is usually not going to be that interesting to watch, and the movie avoided giving his story any sort of engaging structure. That's perfectly appropriate for a documentary, but this isn't a documentary.
Ive been reading the book. Kyle was a really simple kind of guy. probably the perfect kind of guy for the job really. He really did believe that he was doing good, although he seemed more akin to a workaholic to me. more willing to face war than face his own family.

Maybe thats what bob should have gotten out of it? maybe ill watch it and agree with him. Until they release the damn thing in my state I cant say either way!

Me though ive always been curious about the specifics of what soldiers had to go through.
 

Frost27

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Uriel_Hayabusa said:
I haven't seen American Sniper myself yet, but the main thrust of Bob's complaint seems incredibly silly to me. How is it a bad thing that a movie which purports to be based on a true story actually sticks to the true story? I think that should be lauded, not criticized.

Oh, and I hope Bob feels at least a little bit silly to refer to a negative depiction of a Taliban-terrorist as a ''super-villain'' considering all the horrible things the Taliban do and have done. The 2014 Peshawar school massacre is a chilling reminder of that.
This is pretty much my take on this as well. It's a bloody movie based on Chris Kyle's autobiograpy. It was an account of his experiences in the war, anecdotes and war stories, why he was there and eventually decided to come back home and stop fighting followed by the aftereffects of the war on his home life. War doesn't have compelling heroes and supervillains. This wasn't a fictional story set in the Iraq war so even the mention of "anti war narratives" etc. is laughable. I guess this is what one should expect from a war movie reviewed by a liberal.


Also, just a nit to pick... The enemies in Iraq weren't the Taliban (in response to the quoted comment above, not the review).

P.S. If you haven't read this book, you really should.
 

Sanunes

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Frost27 said:
This is pretty much my take on this as well. It's a bloody movie based on Chris Kyle's autobiograpy. It was an account of his experiences in the war, anecdotes and war stories, why he was there and eventually decided to come back home and stop fighting followed by the aftereffects of the war on his home life. War doesn't have compelling heroes and supervillains. This wasn't a fictional story set in the Iraq war so even the mention of "anti war narratives" etc. is laughable. I guess this is what one should expect from a war movie reviewed by a liberal.


Also, just a nit to pick... The enemies in Iraq weren't the Taliban (in response to the quoted comment above, not the review).

P.S. If you haven't read this book, you really should.
Now what I am taking from MovieBobs review is that the problem isn't with the subject matter, but how it is presented. If they went a documentary route a lot of how they portrayed his life would have worked better, but since they went with more of a "story" approach it doesn't work at least for MovieBob. Just by going by the reviews I have read the movie wants to be a bit of both and sometimes when you try to be two different things, you get neither.