The mystery of American Sniper’s plastic babies

20 Jan 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

‘Snipers are cowards’ says Michael Moore as American Sniper breaks US box office records.

In spite of the vitriol spewed toward the movie “American Sniper,” Americans flocked to see the Clint Eastwood biopic of the late Navy SEAL Chris Kyle in record numbers.American Sniper just had a blisteringly successful opening weekend in the UK, and its $105 million US box office takings means Clint Eastwood’s film is likely to be the highest grossing war film of all time.

The Oscar-winning documentary maker Michael Moore has criticised the US Army’s use of snipers at the same time as a film about it has broken box office records, and seen a flurry of racist reaction on Twitter.“God, family, country.” After the awkward dysrhythmia of Jersey Boys (a musical with a tin ear for its tunes), Clint Eastwood is back in the saddle with this bleak western-inflected thriller. The previous record for a movie opening on Martin Luther King Jr. weekend was set last year by “Ride Along,” which opened with $41 million. “American Sniper” is estimated to have more than doubled that, bringing in an astounding $90.2 million.

Adapted from the autobiography of Chris Kyle, a navy Seal (nicknamed “the Legend” – really) who racked up more than 160 confirmed kills as a marksman in Iraq, American Sniper finds Eastwood returning once again to Unforgiven’s thorny themes of guns and retribution in tensely cinematic fashion. Based on Chris’s autobiography, the film has received six Oscar nominations including best picture, best actor for Bradley and best adapted screenplay. There’s a scene in the Best Picture-nominee in which real-life Sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) and his wife Tyra (Sienna Miller), pass the baby to eachother during a coversation. That the title (taken from the book) should ironically echo Bret Easton Ellis’s satirically vitriolic portrait of male psychosis is appropriate, the film allowing its audience to view Kyle as either hero or villain – or both.

Bradley as Chris in American Sniper ((Keith Bernstein/Warner Bros) Michael won an Oscar in 2002 for his documentary Bowling For Columbine, which explores gun violence in America and the main reasons for the Columbine High School massacre. One member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the governing body that awards the Oscars, said Kyle “seems like he may be a sociopath.” That voter admitted he hadn’t seen the movie, only read an article in The New Republic about it. It was originally scheduled to be shown in only a few cinemas, but its release was expanded to 3,500 cinemas the day after the nominations were announced. Bradley Cooper, who saw this project passed from Steven Spielberg to Eastwood, is understatedly conflicted as Kyle, whom we first meet on a Fallujah rooftop, a woman and child in his rifle sights. Another Hollywood elitist, director and Oscar winner Michael Moore, called Kyle a “coward,” Seth Rogen compared the movie to fake Nazi propaganda, and the UK paper The Guardian asked, “The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer.

Telegraph film critic Robbie Collin chose not to include the plastic babies in his review, but did notice them, saying: “they’re conspicuously wobbling rather than moving, which makes the crying sound effects seem a bit eerily detached.” Back in December movie site HitFlix picked up on plastic-babygate, saying: “It’s so obvious, and neither one of them looks like they are comfortable holding it. Spiralling back to the young marksman’s first kill on a hunting trip, we learn that hesitation is a weakness and hear Kyle’s dad explain that there are only three types of people: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Why are simplistic patriots treating him as a hero?” Taya Kyle, Chris’ widow, expressed her gratitude for the film’s success on the Chris Kyle Facebook page Sunday. Yet after the 9/11 attacks, Kyle seems more coyote than collie, his family life collapsing as war takes its toll, only at peace when his killer instinct is in play.

Cooper in particular looks like he’s just plain never held a baby.” The writer, Drew McWeeny, speculates that maybe Eastwood was so keen to sign off on the film he didn’t want to worry himself about the terrifying robot baby. He may have a loving wife (the lately impressive Sienna Miller) at home, but it’s gunfire that puts lead in his pencil; what heavy breathing there is here comes from pre-trigger exhalation, shots fired between heartbeats (after lengthy voyeuristic foreplay), in moments of lethal ecstasy. NewsOK’s review read: “Cooper and Miller deliver the performance of their careers during an argument over what’s supposed to be their infant daughter, but instead end up cradling a jarringly fake plastic baby and trying to pretend it’s the real thing.

There’s just no excuse for that kind of bush-league nonsense.” Plastic babies have been a hot topic of conversation among Reddit users, who have agreed that the doll looks, in no particular order: “super fake”, “like a Cabbage Patch Kid”, “like it weighed less than a pound”, and “really flimsy”. Perhaps, like Flags of our Fathers (which Eastwood paired with Letters from Iowa Jima), American Sniper needs a more didactic balancing element; Spielberg wanted to expand the role of the Iraqi sniper who becomes Kyle’s nemesis, but Eastwood has stripped things back so that we observe the action through American eyes only, our focus as blinkered as that of its titular killer. After one weekend in wide release, “Sniper” is director Eastwood’s fourth most successful film and is expected to be his biggest, currently the 2008 movie “Gran Torino” with $148 million. As such, it makes for disturbing viewing, the understandably clumsy closing coda (necessitated by events in 2013) forcing the film finally towards flag-waving endorsement in the face of unfolding tragedy at home. Star Bradley Cooper has been nominated for an Academy Award for his portrayal of Kyle and also produced the movie, which received a best picture nomination as well. “Sniper” is the first movie Cooper has produced, though he received “executive producer” credits on several of his previous films.

In California, where shooting for American Sniper took place, infants must be at least 15 days old and have a work permit and a doctor’s note to start working. To all of you who have written, texted, or communicated support by simply seeing the movie and those who are offering opportunities to continue the work… I am so grateful for each and every one of you. Day rate can range from around $150 to nearer $800, depending on whether the baby is a background or principal actor, and infants under six months can’t work for longer than 20 minutes per day. I am praying that God works through all of us and that you all are blessed in return for the tremendous blessings you are giving our military and police who take care of us every day. Reddit users have suggested that Cooper has a “crippling fear of babies”, alternatively that “Chris Kyle really liked dolls” or that “Eastwood got tired of yelling at the baby actor maybe.”

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