I work with a girl that has seen American Sniper three times and asks me every day when I am going to see it. She also asks frequently, perhaps not coincidentally, when I am going to get an iphone. To this I reply the same way every time: hundreds of millions of people worldwide have iphones. I know everything there is to know about them. You do not need to sell me on this. I am still not buying one. I’m really not trying to take a stand here; I have a Windows phone and it does everything I need it to. If you want an iphone go ahead, but it’s just a phone, not an American necessity. Somehow this doesn’t stick with my co-worker. Not just my specific desire to inexplicably not purchase an iphone but any decision to not do something that everyone else is doing. For example, how could I not want to see American Sniper?
Why isn’t anyone asking why would anyone want to see it? I am well aware that it has made hundreds of millions of dollars, it has received decent reviews, and it was nominated for several Oscars. That’s wonderful. I’m still allowed to not want to watch it right? Why is there social pressure to see this film? Of the eight films nominated for Best Picture this year I have seen two so far, The Imitation Game and Whiplash. The former I thought was pretty good, well worth the $10 I paid while Whiplash I loved and have recommended to anyone that loves music or creative insults. But no one has asked me about either one of these films. Actually no one has asked if I’ve seen any of them except Selma, which I’m fairly certain everyone replies “No, but I’m going to see it soon” to prove that they are not racist, and of course American Sniper. A million times. Have you seen American Sniper is on pace with “did you check out the runaway llamas?” and “Is the dress blue & black or white & gold?” (For the record, the llamas were awesome especially when set to the Benny Hill theme, and I saw blue and black. I feel special).
Anyway, I don’t want to see American Sniper. I understand that Bradley Cooper is dreamy, but I’m just not that interested in him shooting a bunch of people in the Middle-East. I’ll admit there is a little bit of political influence in my decision. But honestly just a little. When I heard the movie shows the protagonist witnessing the 9/11 attacks and then immediately fighting the war in Iraq it did strike me as dumb to gloss over the fact that in real life one had nothing to do with the other. But that didn’t stop soldiers from believing they were connected, so to me the narrative is still intact. As far as I understand the rest of the plot, Cooper’s character shoots a bunch more people, eventually kills an enemy sniper, deals with PTSD, and is eventually shot and killed by another suffering Veteran. Fin.
It seems like a pretty straightforward film. But just because there is not much to it, does that mean that it’s for everyone? Snipers and guns, they do nothing for me. About two-thirds of the country is with me in not owning one, does everyone just like seeing someone else handle them instead? Not that I don’t enjoy John McCain shooting down terrorists from time to time, but just because someone is shooting “bad guys” that doesn’t make it appointment viewing. There are a ton of violent movies that come out every year, most of them are pretty terrible, a few so terrible that they are still enjoyable if we’re lucky. Most of these can wait until they hit Netflix. Some of them can wait forever. None of them will have much of difference on my life or yours.
Personally, I’m also not too big on war movies either. Every once in a while a decent one will come out and bring people to the box office, but even Lone Survivor, one of the most commercially successful war films in recent times, didn’t top half of the Sniper’s sales. Meanwhile The Hurt Locker, was the lowest grossing movie ever to win Best Picture for the Oscar it took home in 2010. Director Clint Eastwood himself released two war films in the last decade (Letters from Iwo Jima, Flags of Our Fathers) but I hardly know anyone who has seen them, especially anyone under the age of 50. But American Sniper? Can’t you feel the buzz? Everyone is doing it. How could I not want to see it?!
Its puzzling how it has become such a big hit and troubling that it seems to be a bellwether for one’s patriotism. This isn’t burning the flag, leaking secrets, or cheering against the US in the Olympics (although honestly I really don’t care about that). It’s choosing to not see a movie that I normally wouldn’t see anyway. Guns and oversimplifying foreign policy? No thanks. I thought War movies used to be about showing how messed up war is with films like Platoon, Full Metal Jacket, and Apocalypse Now. The way people talk about American Sniper is like it’s some inspirational biopic, not a film about, you know, people killing for unclear reasons. Well fuck it, I don’t feel inspired. Even if somehow not wanting to see a dumb movie about an Iraq War sniper that I can in no way relate to makes me Anti-War, Anti-American, Liberal Scum. Which may in fact be true, but I’d like to be judged on something smarter than my decision to not waste $10 on a mediocre film. Even if everyone else has seen it.