(Or: The Unexpected Virtue of Far Cry 4)
Look, I didn’t see most of the Oscar contenders this year, so everything you are gonna read from here on out is just the ramblings of an ignorant person with an opinion, much like literally everything else on the internet or on any of those news shows where loud people yell at one another and the host yells at them all back and always gets the last word in. I meant to see more of the nominated films, but the problem was that I saw Birdman first and that flick was so delightful and brilliant that the thought of seeing a depressing, inspirational, and/or heavy-handed biopic seemed about as enjoyable as getting dental surgery. And, because I’m a contrarian, whenever a movie is heralded for its topical relevance or social importance, I always find my interest bleeding out like I had been shot by a sniper.
(Brilliant segue alert!)
Now, I saw the preview for American Sniper in the theater, and it was pretty intense. I remember thinking that I was “totally gonna see that shit, because CLINT!” when it came out. But then it landed in theaters and a few things happened almost immediately, things like:
I guess you can make a movie like The Hurt Locker (not, YOU, I mean; you cannot make crap but Catherine Bigelow [of the Bigelow Tea empire – FACT] can) and have it not be mired in controversy because it’s a work of fiction and not based on the autobiography of a controversial person. This is why it’s a universal FACT that fiction is better and you should read more fiction, like, say… my book. Don’t read some Gee, Shucks I Was Just Doing My Job And I’m No Hero non-fiction money-grab by a guy who landed a measly commercial airliner in a measly river and saved all the measly passengers! Read what tortured artists poured their SOULS into, man! That’s where it’s at. (PAY ATTENTION TO ME NOW.)
There’s, like, truth in the fantasy or something. That’s what they say. They usually are on point. I really want to meet Them. Related:
“It’s under the mask of fiction that you can tell the truth.” - Gao Xingjian (I don’t know who that is. I don’t read either. I stumbled upon this quote searching for They.)
Another reason why I didn’t make it to the theater as much as I planned to was because of the absolutely awesome video game, Far Cry 4. For those of you who don’t know what that game is, it’s an open-world shooter that takes place in a fictional country, Kyrat, that’s similar to Nepal in terrain and ruled by a maniacal dictator/king who kidnaps you when you arrive in country to scatter your mother’s ashes. The remainder of the game is spent participating in the revolution to overthrow him. Simple enough, right? No.
What starts out as a simple good vs. evil story soon evolves into a complicated morality play involving alliances with brother and sister revolutionary leaders who share differing visions of how the country should be reshaped. Who one allies with in the game effects the outcome in the end. And when all is said and done, if you choose to kill the king in the final act, and despite his established deservedness of being shot out of a helicopter with a rocket launcher (that’s how I went about it), you experience very conflicting emotions about the act. When the curtain drops, nobody really feels like the good guy - not even the protagonist because of all of the violence and killing. I think I just figured out why I wanted to only see movies with a little levity as of late. That was a depressing game, man.
It’s my opinion that conflicting emotions, at the minimum, are what we as humans are supposed to feel when faced with killing other humans. And the more and more a person is faced with such a terrible choice, the more and more likely it is that a person is going to go at least some degree of crazy and struggle with the memories of such instances. I thought the game did a great job of adding gravitas to the shooting and stabbing (acts which are the whole point of the game really) while still making it highly entertaining.
And there are scores of “shooter” games out there, many of which I have enjoyed, wherein one deals death to nameless soldiers of enemy armies without any explanation as to why, say, we Brave Americans TM are at war with Brazil or whatnot (read: every Modern Warfare game that will ever be). We just are at war and it’s time to teach those Caipirinha-Heads a goddamn lesson! Artistically, for every Hurt Locker there can also be a Die Hard. (By the way, if you think there are more than two Die Hard movies, you are wrong and probably list Attack of the Clones as your favorite Star Wars flick. Also, I hate you.)Participation in a profoundly fucked situation, especially one that involves extreme violence, horror and suffering, also has a strong tendency to put a hole in one’s proverbial bag of marbles. My take (because I know the internet needed another one) on the American Sniper controversy, is that Clint Eastwood can make whatever movie he wants to because he’s awesome, but ignoring the fact that Iraq was a giant quagmire makes the movie less of a tribute to the brave men and women who had to go there and kill or die than it could be. But then again The Green Berets and Platoon are both classics. I still prefer The Hurt Locker over both.