"In the Valley of Elah." "Stop-Loss." "Redacted." "Lions for Lambs." "Rendition." "Grace Is Gone." Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb. Bomb.
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?