The latest Clint Eastwood has already garnered, only a few weeks into its release, more passionate commentary than all other major Oscar releases put together. Perhaps it is because this year’s ceremony will not feature any women or race milestone, or perhaps movies about quirky hotels or psychotic Hollywood stars turned stage actors are simply not controversial enough to stoke that sort of debate. The other argument is that it is because ‘American Sniper’ is simply too in your face Republican for the internet mainstream to accept. Watch the trailer and see for yourself.
Let’s take a step back and look at the men behind the film, both the creator and the subject. Clint Eastwood was last featured heavily in the media as he appeared at the Republican National Convention, speaking to an empty chair personifying Obama, or Bush, or the war in Afghanistan. No one really knows, but the fact that the old time Hollywood legend chose to lend his image not to the changing forces of the Obama campaign, but rather to the comically evil charade of the Republicans Party made it newsworthy enough to circle the web. Many jokes were made and questions of old age and mental fragility were asked. His next film was the perfect follow up: a biopic about the most prolific sniper in US military history, who served in the Iraq war. Chris Kyle wrote a book about himself, with facts which many have contested and won damages in court against. This is the basis for the movie.
American Sniper unashamedly presents the story of the ultimate patriot. The last scene of the film, real footage of Americans across the land waving flags as their hero was buried after being killed by a disturbed fellow veteran, is merely a prologue twisted to the will of the director. The film is essentially built around those images, proving something Grand Torino and Iwo Jima merely strived for: American patriotism, that form of exceptionalism now commonly referred to as ’Murica’ across the globe is real – People who join a war because the ‘terrorist want to steal our freedom’ exist, in overwhelming numbers actually. Marines truly believe they are saving the world from evil and weak-links live just enough to see their freedoms taken away from them. There is nothing profound in this, just the will of a superpower being imposed upon a world. The morality of the decision made by the leaders of the country are not judged at the ultra-local level, where normal citizens of the United States can only react defensively towards any outside threat. This is the space where Chris Kyle and American Sniper reside.
The large swath of criticism for the film comes from folks adamant that the film is bending the truth; that it’s using a cheap form of propaganda not seen since the Nazi regime.
More-so, the inaccuracies conjure a version of the facts more closely aligned with the paranoid militarist version of Fox News rather than anything veritable. However this morally grounded criticism of the film, so deeply hinged on the viewers’ distaste of the Iraq War misses both the logic of fiction, as well as the reality of the character being portrayed.
However far-fetched it may seem, ‘The Legend’, here portrayed by a fairly impressive Bradley Cooper, is not manufactured propaganda character but a real person. The fact that the real Chris Kyle lied about how much he hated terrorist and how many outlandish things he did to protect America merely prove the film’s point. Undegraded by post-modernism, early twentieth century love of country exists well and true in Texas. Not just that, but every time an enemy comes along, be it a fictionalized child-drilling Islamist radical or not, he will rise to the occasion and prove a model for Hells Angels columns of cycles to form in his memory. That is the American Sniper, and the way Clint Eastwood captures it is brilliant in its awfully specific and manipulative way. Deal with it.
by Paul Dunca
Paul Dunca is a freelance saboteur looking for a change of pace. He writes reviews and opinion pieces to keep appearances and can be reached at various wishing wells around London.