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Will Hollywood Learn Lesson from ‘American Sniper?’

The anti-war, anti-Iraq war movies that hit theaters over the last decade all proved deadly at the box office. They kept coming all the same with fellow flops like “Green Zone” (2010) showing even a commercially viable actor like Matt Damon can’t draw audiences to these films.

Then along came “Lone Survivor,” the 2013 thriller about a doomed attack on a group of Taliban soldiers, and the box office registers went ka-ching.

Now, audiences are scrambling to see “American Sniper,” the story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle as told by director Clint Eastwood. Yesterday’s early box office results were astonishing – $5.3 million, a figure more in line with a summer blockbuster, not a January release. Fandango.com reports the movie enjoyed a 264 percent bump in ticket sales after the Oscar nominations were announced. “Sniper’ earned several honors, including Best Picture and Best Actor (Bradley Cooper).

What do “Lone Survivor” and “American Sniper” have in common? Neither film preaches. Both show American soldiers as heroic, but human, figures. Hard work, loyalty and perseverance are front and center in each narrative. And the characters fail to wring their cinematic hands over the deaths of terrorists.

Sounds like a straightforward formula to box office glory … but are Hollywood storytellers willing to repeat it?

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One Comment

  1. Good point. I have wondered about the non-stop introspection in modern war films. Then again, “good” and “successful” aren’t necessarily the same anyway. I consider Eastwood’s pair of films “Flags of our Fathers” and “Letters from Iwo Jima” superb as a pair, up there with “Tora, Tora, Tora”, say, as a film that examines both sides of a conflict while not automatically painting all soldiers as bad guys, regardless of allegiance.

    And yet, it’s the old refrain of the the troops since the dawn of civilization: “I was just following orders”. But does that mitigate the harm, the violence, the death?

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