By Irena Akbar
American Sniper is about late US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who is believed to have shot 160 people during his Iraq tours — a record. However, some of his claims after he returned home, especially of other people he had shot, had run into controversy as well as invited law suits for his widow. Headed for the Oscars, the Clint Eastwood-directed film is now being subjected to the harsh light of reality.
The film, say many writers, is even more fantastical than Kyle’s own telling of his life. Alex von Tunzelmann of The Guardian calls many scenes “heightened” versions of Kyle’s accounts, and says the film “shovels in” Bush-era propaganda. “The war is a lot easier to support when no Americans ever make a mistake and everyone who opposes them is obviously horrible… The message of American Sniper is that Kyle is the real victim of the war. The Iraqis he shot deserved it, because — as it has established to its own satisfaction — they were ‘savages’.”
The Washington Post’s Terrence McCoy says the movie has brought back on American tables debates over Kyle’s career. “But anyone who mentions such holes in the Kyle narrative or critiques the ethos under which he operated does so at his or her own peril,” he writes, citing the example of journalist Rania Khalek, who received death threats. She said that Kyle was consumed by “unrepentant bloodlust” fuelled by “hatred, bigotry”.
After posting an article critical of Kyle, the Left-wing website Alternet commented: “This kicked off an endless flood in our Twitter mentions of outraged right-wing military worshippers who’ve whipped themselves into a hateful frenzy out of blind obedience to a mass killer.”
Actors and filmmakers too have had to retract their comments. After The Interview actor Seth Rogen said American Sniper reminded him of a Nazi propaganda film within Inglourious Basterds, he was met with this tweet: “Amazing considering guys like Kyle are the reason you’re not sitting in a N Korean prison”.
Michael Moore tweeted: “My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.” He too retracted, praising Bradley Cooper’s performance as Kyle.