Not only is this a terrific action/thriller film, it’s one of the best – and most believable – conspiracy movies made in the 21st century. Surprised that Wahlberg could be in such a quality movie? Well, not if you’ve seen him in some of his other polished performances, among them, The Perfect Storm (2000), Three Kings (1999) and Boogie Nights (1997).
But here Wahlberg is centre stage and must carry this conspiracy movie about an apparent assassination attempt on the life of the American president). He does so with what appears to be effortless panache and focus. It’s a powerful, compelling performance in which the character he plays, Bob Lee Swagger, is at the heart of a story about the abuse of American foreign policy/power.
Based upon Stephen Hunter‘s Bob Lee Swagger series of thrillers, beginning with Point of Impact, the author himself acknowledges in one of the DVD’s fascinating bonus featurettes that his original inspiration for his novel was the Marine Carlos Hathcock, a true-life, phenomenally accurate sniper. Perhaps I’m reading too much into this thriller, but my impression is that the intellectual, political viewpoint that underpins this comes from the brilliant Noam Chomsky, in his well-researched, evidence-based critiques and examples of American imperialism, such as in Hegemony or Survival : America’s Quest for Global Dominance, and Failed States: The Abuse of Power and the Assault on Democracy; these viewpoints add substance to what otherwise may have been a lacklustre conspiracy thriller. Wahlberg’s performance is a marvel (there, I said it on record), and thankfully worlds away from his ridiculous role and his even more terrible muppet-like acting in the bottom-wiped-floating-tu*rd remake, Planet of The Apes(2001).This film is a genuine, legitimate and compelling interpretation of the use of illegitimate, unjustified force for the sake of ‘democracy’. It has the narrative drive you would expect of a thriller, combined with touching, sensitive moments, as exemplified by the role and relationships with, first, Kate Mara, the gorgeous actress’s endearing Wahlberg’s character’s saviour and subsequently love interest is terrific; her acting conveying the hurt and pain of having lost her husband, Wahlberg’s sniper buddy in the film, while still behaving according to a set of beliefs that are honorably focused on an essential understanding of ethics. Her face displays an intelligence, sensitivity and complex anguish that arguably merited an Oscar in Best Supporting Actress role. And there’s Michael Peña‘s compelling role as a junior FBI agent, who has the intelligence and wherewithal to distinguish facts from fiction (though Pena’s acting is somewhat cardboard-like, I’m afraid, his character is still interesting). It is dramatic, intelligent, well-written, -plotted, -thought through and thoughtful in its range of issues covered. Amazing, eh? I confess I’ve watched it a few times (I know, I know – life’s too short and there are thousands of other things to read/see/do!) and — every time — I appreciate once again the quality of the sharp, fast dialogue, the acting, the plotting and the very satisfying conclusion. (It is, admittedly, very much a Hollywood movie in the sense of Wahlberg’s glorified revenge.) Shooter, then, is a bona fide US conspiracy action-thriller and is absolutely crammed with action, ideas and thrills. Not only this, but the Special Features of the film give you a deeper insight into its background and inspiration for it.
I also found the stories about the real-life Gunnery Sargeant Carlos Hathcock to be truly fascinating in their own right and merit the price of the DVD alone, because Hathcock really did have the amazing skills Wahlberg demonstrates as the character Bob Lee Swagger, and he was a genuine, top-secret sniper for the US government — with, it seems, abilities in that role that were unprecedented. (Interestingly, on this last point, I was reminded of the 1941 movie, Sergeant York , as the named character — a Quaker pacifist who fights in World War 1, played wonderfully by Gary Cooper, and who is not only a soldier but also a truly brilliant marksman/sniper/shooter.)
If you fancy learning more about Hathcock, his story is told over two biographies, both of which are available now. The first is Marine Sniper and the sequel is Silent Warrior. Click on the relevant image to find out more about each and/or to buy them.
This is an intelligent film that has all the elements you want in a thriller/conspiracy movie; yep, it’s the real deal: a movie that makes you think, feel and engage about geo-politics, American foreign policy, and the ramifications of all the above — while thoroughly enjoying yourself and being entertained at the same time as Wahlberg defies the odds, kicks a*ss and, of course, wins the day (and the beautiful, clever love interest — but of course!).