NEW YORK (Christian Examiner) — "American Sniper," the Oscar-nominated war film about Navy Seal Chris Kyle and how he became the most lethal sniper in U.S. history, smashed U.S. box office records over the weekend with $90.2 million in ticket sales, according to studio estimates.
The pro-war movie, which was directed by Clint Eastwood and starred Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, had the largest audiences for a January weekend than any drama opening ever. After scoring six Oscar nominations, including best picture and best actor for Cooper, many are wondering how the film garnered so much buzz and success after initially opening on just a few screens.
Dan Fellman, the head of domestic distribution at the Time Warner Inc. unit Warner Bros., which distributed "American Sniper," said it had become "an instant cultural phenomenon," especially among those who are not usually represented in Hollywood.
"People in small towns, big and small cities, in the heartland, in both red and blue states, people who go to the movies once every year or two, they all came out," Fellman said.
Among a string of positive reviews were also some negative ones and adverse reactions. Cameron Williams of The Popcorn Junkie accused the film of jingoism, writing that it "bleeds red, white and blue in the worst ways." Actor Seth Rogen compared "American Sniper" to faux Nazi propaganda film "Nation's Pride," which was about a German sniper that killed 200 Allied soldiers. Michael Moore, the director most famously known for "Farenheit 9/11," said that he viewed snipers as "cowards."
"My uncle killed by a sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren't heroes. And invaders are worse," he tweeted.
Newt Gingrich responded to Moore's controversial viewpoint, saying the director "should spend a few weeks with ISIS and Boko Haram. Then he might appreciate American Sniper."
"I am proud of our defenders," the former Republican presidential candidate added.
Cooper has defended the film, saying that the movie is more a "character study" about the difficulties of serving in the military than a political film.
"If it's not this movie, I hope to god another movie will come out where it will shed light on the fact of what servicemen and women have to go through, and that we need to pay attention to our vets," Cooper told The Daily Beast. "It doesn't go any farther than that."
"It's not a political discussion about war, even ... It's a discussion about the reality. And the reality is that people are coming home, and we have to take care of them," the actor added.
"American Sniper," which is expected to add another $15 million on Monday, set records in IMAX theaters and far surpassed Eastwood's "Gran Torino," which opened at $29.5 million in 2008.
Reuters contributed to this report.