American Sniper is one of the best anti-war movies I have seen, ever. But it shows the sniper-assassin, and his killing, to be sexy, and to be regarded as sexy by women, while the rest of war is dull and stupid. (Even the two enemy snipers are quite attractive and fantastic figures, and there is a deliberate parallel between the family life of the Syrian sniper and the American protagonist. The klutziness of the non-assassin soldiers limited how many African-Americans and Hispanics they were willing to cast in those roles, as it is easiest to make white guys look crass in this way without causing offense.) By making the attractions of war palpable, this film disturbs and confuses people and also occasions some of the worst critical reviews I have read. It also, by understanding and then dissecting the attractions of blood lust, becomes a quite convincing anti-war movie, if you doubt this spend a few months studying The Iliad. (By the way, Clint Eastwood, the director and producer, describes the movie as anti-war.) The murder scenes create an almost unbearable tension, the sandstorm is a metaphor for our collective fog, and they had the stones to opt for the emotional overkill of four rather than just three tours of duty. Iraq is presented as a hopeless wasteland with nothing of value or relevance to the United States, and at the end of the story America proves its own worst enemy. It is not clear who ever gets over having killed and fought in a war (can anything else be so gripping?…neither family life nor sex…), even when appearances suggest a kind of normality has returned. The generational cycle is in any case replenished. I say A or A+, both as a movie and as a Rorschach test.
Two Days, One Night has some of the worst economics I have seen in a movie, ever. It would be brilliant as a kind of Randian (or for that matter Keynesian) meta-critique of the screwed up nature of Belgian labor markets and social norms, and most of all a critique of the inability of the Belgian intelligentsia to understand this, except it is not. It is meant as a straight-up plea for sympathy for the victim and as such it fails miserably, even though as a movie it embodies reasonably good production values. Everything in the workplace of this solar power company is zero-sum across the workers and we never see why. The protagonist campaigns to get her job back, but never asks or even considers how she might improve her productivity or attitude, asking only on the basis of need. (And she is turned down only on the basis of need.) At one point her employer states the zero marginal product hypothesis quite precisely, something like “when you took time off, we saw that sixteen people could do the work of seventeen.” She never asks if there might be some other way she could contribute — but she does need the money — nor does the notion of a better job match somewhere else rear its head. The depictions of financial hardship confuse wealth and income, basic survival and discretionary spending. The rave reviews this movie has received represent yet another Rorschach test and one which virtually every commentator seems to have failed.