Shooter is a 2007 film directed by Antoine Fuqua featuring Mark Wahlberg as Bob Lee Swagger, an ex-marine sniper who was disillusioned with the government after he was left behind enemy lines during a mission, only escaping on his own terms. It is based on the 1993 novel Point Of Impact by Stephen Hunter, although it does deviate from the source material in several parts.Yet because he is the best at what he does, he is recruited by the government to help track down a potential sniper, only to become the scapegoat as part of a Government Conspiracy. Swagger goes on the run but knows he has to fight back, recruiting rookie FBI agent Nick Memphis to investigate. What they find reveals new details about the mission where Bob was trapped behind enemy lines.Meanwhile, the widow of Bob's sniper partner is also dragged into the events, and Bob has to save her, though she is not a traditional Distressed Damseleither.Shooter enjoyed moderate box office success and some critical acclaim. In its genre, it is a conspiracy thriller, and rides on the paranoia of the Bush years. It also owes a lot to The Bourne Series (including the general resemblance between Wahlberg and Matt Damon), although the sniper angle and being rated R works in seperating itself from other Follow the Leader types.
This film provides examples of:
Adaptational Attractiveness: In the book, Bob Lee Swagger is a forty-something man who is described as looking kinda like Clint Eastwood. In the film Bob Lee is played by the young and handsome Mark Wahlberg.
Awesome McCoolname: If you're gonna cross modern political thriller with an 80s style action movie, you need cool names. Thankfully, Bob Lee Swagger fits the bill. Hell, even the sidekick has one: Nick Memphis. In fact, you can tell Nick's going to be significant because he's the only person in the film with a name even half as cool as Swagger.
In a later book, Stephen Hunter thanks the man he named Earl and Bob Lee Swagger after.
It gets cooler when you realize that Swagger is named after Robert E. Lee; yes, thatRobert E Lee...
Artistic License: The advisor for the film said that the assassination shot that starts up the plot in reality should have split the target's head in half. But while it would have been more realistic it would have been more graphic than the filmmakers wanted.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: Signficantly averted, as Swagger's religious care of his own rifle is a major plot point later in the film. At least two examples of this become significant plot points; see Chekhov's Gun.
BFG: Bob's Cheyenne Tactical M200 Intervention which he supposedly used to try assassinate the president, and hit the Ethiopian archbishop. Even bigger is the Barrett .50 cal he uses against the helicopter in the opening scene.
Bald of Evil: One of the three assassins sent after Nick Memphis has one.
Beard of Evil: The other two assassins sent after Memphis sport these.
Blasting It Out Of Their Hands: Swagger makes a long-range sniper shot to blow a gun in half Payne is using to threaten his hostage; it looks like shrapnel was propelled into his hand, possibly taking off part of his finger. Subverted seconds later when, while Payne expresses admiration at the first shot, Swagger fires again and blows off his arm just below the elbow.
Cold Sniper: Bob, but Sandor is downright sadistic, and is wheelchair-bound, as when his location was discovered during a battle, his opponents took no chances and targeted him with the artillery. *
Tanks have been used in the counter-sniper role in Iraq, and artillery shelling has been done to snipers since at least World War One. They don't like it and it reduces life expectancy.
Colonel Badass: Colonel (retired) Johnson. His role in the movie is more of a Smug Snake / Corrupt Bureaucrat, but at the beginning he shows Swagger a Medal of Honor. This is the highest medal a US military member can receive, requires an act of Congress to issue, and it's very often awarded posthumously.
Development Hell: It took 14 years after the novel came out before the movie was finally made. During this period several scripts were written and discarded, including one by Stephen Hunter himself (he admits that it wasn't very good, commenting "I'm a better novelist than I am a screenwriter"). The plans to make a film of Point of Impact began back in the mid-1990s, with Tommy Lee Jones intended to play Bob Lee Swagger.
Do Not Taunt Cthulhu: Payne taunts Swagger, claiming that he has no shot on him (A headshot would have triggered a spasm that would have fired the shotgun pointed at Sarah). Swagger responds by shooting him in the hand, destroying the trigger.
Fatal Family Photo: Bob's spotter just had to show a picture of his wife before they were assaulted. It's like Antoine Fuqua wanted to step into the shot, wave at the viewers, and yell "this man is about to die!" though a megaphone. But considering the rest of the movie.. it's understandable why they did it.
The Film of the Book: Based off a book by Washington Post movie critic Stephen Hunter, fairly loosely.
Foreshadowing: Near the opening of the film, Johnson and his friends mention that the CIA guy overseeing the operation that hung Bob and his spotter out to dry died mysteriously shortly thereafter, though they never pinned anything on Bob. Guess what happens to those same men near the end of the film?
"Get Out of Jail Free" Card: In the end, Swagger is acquitted of the crime he was framed for, the assassination of an African archbishop, by proving that the murder weapon could not have been used, thus he could not have fired it. This seems perfectly logical, but no one, not even the incognito Big Bad who was sitting right next to the war council, seems to address the fact that Swagger killed probably a bunch of men and caused untold amounts of property damage between the beginning of the film and now in his quest for vengeance.
The Government: Evil as usual. Parts of it. The scene at the end shows some of it is still working since Bob Lee shouldn't have been able to leave that quickly.
Gunman With Three Names: Bob Lee Swagger. Lee may be a reference to Lee Harvey Oswald. Swagger to military joke; bullet trajectory calculations are sometimes called "SWAG" — Sophisticated Wild-Ass Guess. Swagger is the name of a man the author knew. He borrowed the man's name for both Swaggers.
Bob is seen reading zmag.org and keeps a copy of the 9/11 commission report on his desk. In another scene, Nick is wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt.
Bob's deep suspicion for all things government can be explained by him losing his best friend and being left to die behind enemy lines during a mission that will never be made public. Nick, bright-eyed FBI agent, wearing a Che Guevara t-shirt...not so much. True, he needed a change of clothes after his "session" with the Colonel's torture techs, so he had to wear what he could find in a hurry, but where does one find a Che Guevara shirt in rural Tennessee?
Somewhat ironic since a whole chapter in the book is devoted to the media's reaction to the assassination and their twisting of the facts, which at least one columnist uses to push for a gun ban.
Stephen Hunter refuses to pick a side. He thinks the bureaucracy is dumb, but is in favor of some of it. A good example is that though he is opposed to gun bans, he is a dedicated supporter of registration.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Many believe that the corrupt US Senator played by Ned Beatty was intended by the director to be a stand-in for Dick Cheney.
Only a Flesh Wound: Averted. Bob is shot in the shoulder and leg during the frame-up. He escapes, but moves with a limp. He's uses a first-aid kit to stop his bleeding. Later he makes a makeshift IV and dressing for his wounds. He still requires medical care to properly treat them, and get the bullets out.
Playing Possum: Swagger is badly wounded after being shot twice, but as a highly trained Marine Scout Sniper he is far from disabled. He plays up his injuries so FBI Agent Memphis will get close to him, then quickly disarms him and steals his car.
Pull The IV: Swagger does this to himself; he's been shot and knows he's going into shock from blood loss, so he improvises an IV set using aquarium tubing, plastic soda bottles, and a basting needle. Once he's bolused himself with a liter or so of homemade sugar-salt solution, he yanks the line out and continues on his merry Bad Ass way.
Properly Paranoid: Bob Lee Swagger is this in spades, as evidenced by the Chekhov's Gun entry. Let's expand that a bit: Taking the firing pins out of his rifles when he puts them away would be just as effective at preventing accidents or unauthorized use. But Bob goes the extra mile and replaces them with custom-modified pins that will not fire. The only reason for this would be to fool someone who was deliberately trying to frame him, and who would know to check the firing pin. Which means he planned for that exact scenario. The book makes it clear that while he agrees to work with the government to stop the assassination, he doesn't trust them, and decides to prepare for specific eventualities.
Reality Ensues: The climax of the film is about four or five of these, stacked on top of each other like Jenga. Specifically:
Swagger refuses to accept the evidence that will free him, reasoning it too poisonous, with the conspirators having extra incentive to keep trying to kill him as long as he holds it.
By virtue of the above, Swagger is arrested and the conspiracy theorists seem to win.
Swagger frees himself by means of his own backup plan.
Despite this, the Attorney General cannot make anything stick to the Colonel, who gets off scot-free and is able to carry on doing the same thing he was doing before.
Finally, Swagger decides not to take this lying down (just as after Donny's death, to which he responded by murdering the CIA agents responsible for the set up) choosing instead to massacre all the conspiracy leaders in one fell swoop.
Revealing Coverup: When the policeman who shot at Bob dies a few days later "in a botched robbery", Nick sees right through it.
Galindo: Bad things happen to good people.
Nick: Yet, not that fast, they don't.
Scope Snipe: Obligatory, for a sniper movie. Happens during the mountaintop confrontation.
Self Surgery: Bob's initial patchup, though unusually he follows it up by seeking proper attention from a (semi-)trained nurse.
Shoot The Fuel Tank: A helicopter is taken down by shooting a propane tank it was hovering above.
"For the record, I don't like how this turned out any more then you do. But this is the world we live in. And justice does not always prevail. It's not the wild west where you can clean up the streets with a gun. Even though sometimes it's exactly what is needed... Bob Lee Swagger, you're free to go." So Swagger goes straight to the senator's cabin and shoots all of them.
Smug Snake: Col. Johnson just can't resist rubbing it in.
Colonel Johnson: What the hell am I doing here? You've got nothing on me. I'm covered. Call the Joint Chief.
Attorney General Russert: That won't be necessary, Colonel, as I have already received no less than a dozen calls from highly-ranked and powerfully-placed individuals telling me to let you go. But the joy of checks and balances in our government is that I can, and am, indeed, required by law, to tell them to ''fuck off''.
Nick Memphis is tipped off that something isn't quite right when the government investigation into the Ethiopian Arch-Bishop is too efficient. To be exact, despite the scene of the shooting still being locked down twelve minutes after the shooting - with FBI helicopters yet to begin pursuit, the ballistics report arrives just ten minutes later.
Nick Memphis: We work for the federal government. We're not that good at our jobs.
Nick also correctly deduces that someone as highly skilled a sniper as Swagger simply couldn't miss by such a wide margin, since he's capable of shooting a silver dollar at 1000ft, with a maximum spread of 1 and a half inches. How does a man capable of that manage to miss by over 2 feet at 2000 yards?
Took a Level in Badass: Nick goes from befuddled FBI rook to a useful ally for Swagger. This was better-explained in the book, where Nick was an ex-sniper.
This Means War!: Swagger got upset when they framed him for trying to kill the President and tried to kill him. But he really declared war when they killed his dog!
Training Montage: Nick Memphis goes from rookie FBI agent to a sniper thanks to a lesson by Bob.
Mr. Rate: That's how a conspiracy works. Them boys on the Grassy Knoll they were dead within three hours, buried in the damned desert, unmarked graves out past Terlingua.
Nick Memphis: You know this for a fact?
Mr. Rate: Still got the shovel...
Wrongful Accusation Insurance: As soon as Bob was able to prove that the FBI's evidence against him was fake, he was free to go. This is in spite of his merciless slaughter of henchmen, soldiers, and military snipers. Sure, it was in self defense and in defense of Memphis, but his high-influence political enemies had no reason not to nail him for it. It really helps, however, that everyone he killed did not legally exist. The henchmen torturing Memphis - legally dead years before. The army that ambushed him at the cabin — an American-trained Chilean death squad mercenary unit who weren't even authorized to be in the US, let alone carrying state-of-the-art weapons and flying a helicopter gunship. The snipers on the mountain - more mercenary henchmen. If The Government came down on Swagger, they'd be admitting the existence of an entire organization of state-sponsored terrorists. Make Watergate look like the President was hit by a pie. They probably were planning to "neutralize" Bob themselves, but he drew first.
In addition to many of the above tropes, Point of Impact and its sequels provide examples of:
Even Evil Has Standards: In Time To HuntSolaratov is discovered by two phone company employees while breaking into their office to steal information. He is forced to kill both of them due to them witnessing what he was doing. Despite the fact that Solaratov is a cold-blooded professional assassin who has killed dozens, if not hundreds, of people over the decades he feels a twinge of guilt over having to murder two completely innocent people.
Everythings Better With Bob: Dr. Dobbler would like you to know that Bob Lee Swagger's first name is Bob. Not Robert, Bob. In fact, the only sources to get this wrong are a few voices in the media circus, but that's the least of what they do.
Evil Cripple: Lon Scott, the real sniper. His immobility is a major plot point.
Although in The Third Bullet Lon Scott is given a more sympathetic portrayal. He is shown to be a tragic figure whose disability and guilt over killing John F. Kennedy gradully turned him into the remorseless killer in Point of Impact.
Freudian Excuse: Lon Scott was accidentally shot in the spine by his father at a relatively young age, paralyzing him, days after which his father committed suicide. Messed him up something fierce.
Friendly Sniper: Played straight and averted with Bob Lee. He's old-fahsioned and polite to those he has to deal with, but he's also reclusive and withdrawn from the world at large.
The novel I, Sniper features a few examples. The character Carl Hitchcock is based on real-life Marine sniper and Vietnam vet Carlos Hathcock. The character Joan Flanders is based on Jane Fonda, and billionaire television mogul T.T. Constable is based on Ted Turner.
The character of Richard Puller in The Day Before Midnight and Time to Hunt is based on Richard J. Meadows, a real-life U.S. Army Special Forces soldier who was a key figure in founding Delta Force.
"He was careful to have men under him who were not quite as bright as he, and he particularly understood the dangers of talent, which was that while it was capable of producing spectacular results, it was just as apt to go off by itself to nurse obscure grudges or lick psychic wounds after gross expenditures of energy. Talent wasn't consistent or loyal or pliant enough to be trusted; Howard deeply hated talent, and made certain that none of the men who worked for him ever had any talent. He'd driven seven talented men out of the Bureau and only one had stood against him, the idiot Nick Memphis, once so bright and brimming with enthusiasm, carefully betrayed at each step of the way, and yet stubborn in his refusal to leave the Bureau."
For complete reference, prior to the events of the book, Utey was Memphis's superior during a hostage situation where Memphis was attempting to snipe a gunman holding a woman hostage. He yells in Memphis's earbuds just as he takes the shot, making him hit the woman! That's not conjecture either - Swagger simulates the shot, and is only able to make it by using his training to tune out the screeching over his radio.
It's implied that he's a willing member of RamDyne's conspiracy - especially his Villainous BSOD upon seeing Swagger walk.
The Vietnam War: An integral part of many characters' backstories, including Swagger, Payne and Shreck.