The popularity of the film American Sniper is often punctuated with something like “You know, it’s a true story.”
Occasionally, I hear “based on a true story,” but I have learned that the general public has only a loose understanding of genre (such as memoir or film based on a true story); for example, consider the controversy surrounding A Million Little Pieces once it was endorsed and then refuted by Oprah Winfrey.
One of the ways in which I teach writing to first year college students is that we focus on adaptation in order to examine issues related to genre awareness as well as factual truth (often the domain of nonfiction) versus Universal Truth (typically associated with fiction and poetry).
Both the popularity and Oscar attention focused on American Sniper are worth highlighting as a whitewashing of the already skewed ultra-patriotism in the U.S. But the film as adaptation of memoir also highlights the tension created when we consider a work as a piece of art in the context of the larger socio-political issues that work addresses or exists within (a U.S. film for a mostly U.S. audience building sympathy for the soldier-as-sniper versus the carnage of war, the collateral damage and loss of life among a foreign people to the targeted audience).
It is possible to admire a film as a fine work of art while also recognizing that the work of art has failed in some real and important ways related to messages, both intended and implied. I have felt that tension when examining the poetry of e.e. cummings against his life, for example.
Here, then, I offer a place to start a critical viewing and consideration of the film American Sniper (to be updated as warranted):
The Controversial True Story Behind ‘American Sniper’, Michael Hoinski
The Legend of Chris Kyle, Michael J. Mooney
Is American Sniper historically accurate?, Alex von Tunzelmann
‘American Sniper’ Is Almost Too Dumb to Criticize, Matt Taibbi
7 Big Lies ‘American Sniper’ Is Telling America, Zaid Jilani
‘American Sniper’: American Hero or American Psycho?, Sonali Kolhatkar
Death of an American sniper, Laura Miller
Killing Ragheads for Jesus, Chris Hedges
I was an American sniper, and Chris Kyle’s war was not my war, Garett Repenhagen