American Sniper (2014)

“There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. Some people prefer to believe that evil doesn’t exist in the world, and if it ever darkened their doorstep, they wouldn’t know how to protect themselves. Those are the sheep.”

‘American Sniper’, directed by Clint Eastwood in 2014, is an American biopic and war drama. Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, a rodeo cowboy who enlists with the US Navy Seals after the 1998 US Embassy bombings. Whilst training he is found to have an aptitude for sharp-shooting and after 9/11 he is sent to Iraq where he goes on to do four tours and becomes famous for his number of kills. Returning home he finds himself struggling to adjust to civilian life, but is helped (but ultimately meets his tragic end) through his work with rehabilitating wounded veterans. It’s difficult to separate this film from the politics of its director. There is something fiercely and monolithically patriotic in the way it is put together, in the way the soldiers and their adversaries are presented and in the way the physical details of the combat and technology is presented. There is clearly a right-wing bias, but the film in undeniably well put together and stylishly directed. The closest comparison to this film is ‘Sergeant York’ from 1941, another biopic about a sniper who becomes famous. It’s eerie how similar the two films are in plot beats considering both are based on true stories, but perhaps this is a key to understanding the films. Both movies are intended as propaganda, ‘Sergeant York’ to get men to enlist to fight in World War Two, ‘American Sniper’ to support the dubious US government’s ongoing reaction to 9/11. This means that the details of the lives of the subjects they focus on are carefully and selectively chosen, so the films create a version of these two men’s lives that serve a higher, more political purpose.

Would I recommend it? I despise Eastwood’s politics and the jingoistic foundation that the film is built on, but like ‘Sergeant York’ I found it satisfying dramatically and artistically. That’s the obvious double bill for you but for a patriotic war movie that has more humanity watch ‘The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp‘.

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