COMMENTARY | Coming Soon has announced that Steven Spielberg will direct and coproduce the film version of “American Sniper,” the story of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL sniper so feared by insurgents in Iraq that they called him “Al Shaitan” and placed a prize on his head.
After finishing his military service in 2009, after serving four tours in Iraq, Kyle worked to help fellow veterans suffering from both physical and mental disabilities. It was while doing this that Kyle was murdered by a Marine Corps veteran whom Kyle had taken to a shooting range to help him cope with his PTSD, according to the Associated Press.
Bradley Cooper is already attached to play Kyle, who has an official number of confirmed kills of 150.
The prospect of Spielberg, unarguably one of the best film directors of all times, elicits mixed feelings.
On the one hand, Spielberg has made at least two great war films, “Saving Private Ryan” and “The War Horse” that were unstinting in their views of the horrors of armed conflict but also celebrating the heroism and self sacrifice of the ordinary soldiers. He helped to produce two HBO miniseries, “Band of Brothers” and “The Pacific War” that are similarly awesome. From this perspective Spielberg is certainly capable of making a new classic in the film version of “American Sniper.”
On the other hand Spielberg, like too many in Hollywood, is a man of the left. He has supported liberal causes and liberal politicians such as President Obama. This tendency has tripped him up at least once when dealing with recent history in his greatly flawed movie, “Munich,” about the Israeli hunt for the Black September terrorists who murdered Israeli athletes at the 1972 Munich Olympics. Gabriel Schoenfeld, in Commentary Magazine, suggests that the movie is not only replete with historical inaccuracies and depictions of moral equivalence between the Palestinian terrorists and the Israelis who are hunting them, but is a direct attack on the State of Israel itself, although Spielberg to this day has denied it.
The Iraq War in which Kyle served remains controversial years after the last American soldier departed, and not just on the left. The question arises, can Spielberg avoid making political shots in his version of “American Sniper” as he did in “Munich” and remain focused on the character and experiences of Kyle himself?
Complicating matters is that Kyle was a good friend of Sarah and Todd Palin, both of whom rendered a heartfelt memorial on her Facebook page upon his death. Kyle’s death was also celebrated by the left on Twitter. How is Spielberg, who has likely never met anyone like Sarah Palin, going to deal with that?
The answer will determine whether Spielberg’s “American Sniper” becomes a classic or an embarrassment.