This weekend I saw AMERICAN SNIPER (AS) and THE IMITATION GAME (TIG). Here are my conclusions:
• TIG is a superior film about a superior story. The filmmakers told the struggle of Alan Turing with greater fidelity than Eastwood did for Chris Kyle
• Whether or not someone is a war hero is entirely contextual. For Kyle, he sure as hell was for his brothers; the bigger question is should he have HAD to be a war hero? The Iraq war is decidedly not connected to the WTC towers and Pentagon attacks on 9/11, unlike how Eastwood framed it.
• Alan Turing was not only a brilliant mathematician and the father of the digital computer, he was an astonishingly heroic contributor to the defeat of Nazi Germany and her allies in WWII by cracking the Enigma code; his contributions weren’t known for a full fifty years following his triumph and only after the state criminalized and chemically castrated him for being homosexual. Turing lost his life, possibly to suicide, following this insult. In hindsight, this is universally agreed upon to be an atrocious way to have treated him.
• Chris Kyle’s story, just like Louis Zamperini in Angelina Jolie’s direction of the UNBROKEN adaptation, could’ve been better spent focusing upon the soldier’s rehabilitation and struggles upon returning from war. As a character study on the hell of war and it’s effect upon an individual soldier is a bit worn out. What isn’t, however, is the need to ACTUALLY support our troops and for us to see the struggle outside of combat as well as the supports (or lack thereof) for bringing back into the homeland those that serve and nearly gave their full measure.
To that end, TIG could’ve spent more time on Turing’s tragedy, and perhaps the grace I should extend the filmmakers of both TIG and AS (as well as Unbroken) is that there isn’t the necessary narrative components in that scenario when following the biopic formula for films that just so happen to cover war time subjects.
However, in hearing what Matthew Taibbi says in his searing review of AS (http://goo.gl/DrcqhN) that audiences were cheering during the scene when Kyle ultimately takes out his nemesis, the Al-Quaeda sniper, Mustafa. It’s the brazen cheering of a fabricated moment (not a confirmed kill) in a manufactured war (not a confirmed connection to the attacks here) that concern me. It makes me worried about future conflicts at the hands of a corrupt White House, and our capacity to keep shows of deployed force from happening in the first place at the expense of thousands of US soldiers and foreign civilians. Supporters of American Sniper (the person as informed by the film) make me think it could happen again in Iran, North Korea, or even Syria.
At least according to the TIG filmmakers, I think Turing himself summed it up and gives us all an explanation of the success of American Sniper:
“Do you know why people like violence? It is because it feels good. Humans find violence deeply satisfying. But remove the satisfaction, and the act becomes… hollow.”
And on that note, I have a feeling that when I get off my duff and see SELMA, I’ll have an even more decisive idea of what film SHOULD have received the rightful nod for Best Picture.