The “American Sniper” Controversy

By James Hirsen, Special for  USDR

Clint Eastwood’s, “American Sniper,” has Hollywood insiders in a virtual state of  shock.

Eastwood’s directorial masterpiece has picked up six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actor. With more than $90 million in box-office revenue over the past weekend and an estimated $105 million take for the four-day Martin Luther King holiday, the film has exceeded expectations while decimating previous ticket sales  records.

The movie now holds the record for having had the largest weekend sales figure ever in the month of January. It has beaten “Avatar,” which had pulled in $68.5 million in 2010. Additionally, it holds the title for having had the biggest opening total during the Martin Luther King extended weekend, surpassing the amount generated by “Ride Along,” which had attracted $48.6 million in total sales in  2014.

“American Sniper” has also bested the previous record of $103.4 million held by 2011’s “Hangover Part II” for the biggest four-day weekend box-office tally for a film rated R. It is simply the best opening for any film in Eastwood’s career. On the first day of its debut weekend, with $30.5 million, it topped “Gran Torino,” which had achieved $29.5 million in its 2008 opening  weekend.

The original designated director of “Sniper,” as announced in 2013, had been Steven Spielberg. However, Spielberg dropped out of the project, reportedly due to the production budget, and Eastwood was tapped to  direct.

Executives and creative minds in Hollywood are wondering why the film did almost twice the revenue that anyone in the industry had expected. The project had initially been perceived (and by some is still viewed) as a simplistic, partisan, pro-military film. But what Eastwood actually delivers in the movie is a realistic characterization of the consequences of  war.

There is a poignant moment in which lead character Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) is, after multiple tours of duty, uncharacteristically overwhelmed by the death and destruction that surround him. His courageous stoicism melts away, and he is left with only one desire — to return  home.

Eastwood, whose instinctive approach to cinema focuses on raw honest portrayals, countered the notion that the film has an  agenda.

“Pardon me for sounding defensive, but it certainly has nothing to do with any [political] parties or anything,” the director told The Toronto  Star.

Cooper echoed his director’s sentiments, telling the Daily Beast that “American Sniper” is “not a political discussion about war” and noting that for Eastwood and himself, “this movie was always a character study about what the plight is for a  soldier.”

Notwithstanding the actual content of the movie, David Edelstein of Vulture labeled the film “a Republican platform,” independent journalist Rania Khalek called it “dangerous propaganda,” and the Guardian’s Lindy West wrote that “the real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer,” wondering why he was being treated as a  hero.

Despite the politicized musings of some, the movie-going audiences have clearly been resonating to the immense respect that Eastwood displays for the military throughout the movie. The majority of film viewers to date has been comprised of males (57%) over 25-years-old (63%). “American Sniper” has received a coveted A+ rating, according to  Cinemascore.

While it is clear that the public has fully embraced “American Sniper,” the question still remains as to whether or not the voting members of the Academy will do the  same.

All opinions expressed on USDR are those of the author and not necessarily those of US Daily Review.