Air Force veteran and congressman Adam Kinzinger said Sunday that “American Sniper,” the Oscar-nominated film that’s packed theaters while reigniting the nation’s culture wars, is the most authentic depiction of the Iraq conflict that he’s seen.
“It was the most realistic at just capturing that essence of what the Iraq war felt like,” the Illinois Republican, who serves on the Armed Service Committee, told CNN’s “State of the Union.” “So I think it was great.”
Critics say the movie, which stars Bradley Cooper as prolific U.S. sniper Chris Kyle, glorified the American mission in Iraq without exploring the nation’s reasons for waging the war. And, they say, it made the late sniper into a self-deprecating hero who, in actuality, was rather boastful about his exploits, including some morally and factually dubious ones on the homefront.
Others say the film is an important and unflinching portrayal of war and the struggles that veterans face when they come home. In 2013 Kyle was killed by a troubled veteran he had taken to a gun range in Texas as therapy.
The film was nominated for six Academy Awards, including best film and Mr. Cooper as best actor, and continued to clean up at the box office at the weekend, just its second in broad release.
According to industry estimates released Sunday, “American Sniper” was the top-grossing film in North American theaters, taking in $64.4 million, about the same amount as the films in the No. 2 through No. 8 slots, combined.
In just 10 days in general release, the Warner Bros. film has grossed $200 million in the U.S. and Canada, the biggest January opening in history.
Mr. Kinzinger said he attributed the movie’s success in part to its themes and said he hopes it would help instill in audiences one of its themes, about the virtue of sacrifice and the honor of military service. Right now, he noted, sports figures and singers tend to be held up as heroes.
“The youth of America need examples like this even if you don’t go into the military,” he said. “It’s the idea that life is about something bigger than you. And that’s why I think this story resonates.”
Freshman Rep. Ruben Gallego, Arizona Democrat, who deployed to Iraq with the Marines, said the country should reward that sacrifice by giving veterans the opportunity to “accomplish the American dream like anybody else.”
War is traumatizing, he added on the CNN show — something to remember as Kyle’s story is picked apart.
“And no matter what we do,” he said, “no matter what movie or book we write, it’s always going to show that, and there’s no way to deny that.”
Still, many other liberals continued at the weekend to denigrate the film and its protagonist. In an appearance on Bill Maher’s HBO show, former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean said the film’s biggest fans were conservative tea party members.
“I bet if you look at a cross section of the tea party and people who go see this movie I bet there’s a lot of intersection,” Mr. Dean said.
Mr. Maher was much blunter, calling Kyle a “psychopath patriot” and taking issue with quotes from Kyle’s autobiography, which served as the inspiration for the film.
“If you’re a Christian, I know this is a Christian country, ‘I hate the [expletive] savages, I don’t give a [expletive] what happens to them,’ that doesn’t sound like a Christian thing to say,” Mr. Maher said.