Sifting Through the Controversy: American Sniper

Sniper

After seeing the movie this past weekend and examining all of the buzz that has people so divided on its overall message, I decided that I would speak to the issue.

American Sniper is neutral, plain and simple. It is neither a propaganda piece nor a scathing condemnation of the Iraq war. And while I may be a little late to this discussion, at the risk of sounding a bit redundant I must reiterate what Clint Eastwood and many others have said in defense of the film: It is a character study. That’s it. There is no pro-war message here. It is not a celebration of an efficient killer.

If anything, the film raises awareness on the epidemic in our country that is post-traumatic stress disorder, being presented to us at a time when we are all too aware of just how ailing our system is in treating our veterans.

There is one scene in the film when Chris Kyle sees the Twin Towers fall, and then the story steadily fast forwards to his Navy Seal training and his four subsequent tours of Iraq. This is the only issue I take with the film, because it implies a cause and effect connection between two mutually exclusive events: 9/11 and the war in Iraq. However, if the attacks on the World Trade Center were the catalyst that put Kyle on the path to the military and Iraq is where that path led him, it becomes more difficult to fault Eastwood for following the chronology of Kyle’s life.

I grew up in the post-Vietnam war era, and I took in as many movies dealing with the conflict as I could, movies that attempted to study human misery in that context responsibly. As I grew a little older, I re-examined these same movies with an adult’s perspective, and never once did I take away any messages from them other than: War is hell. It makes me wonder why American Sniper, which follows in this same tradition, has come under such heavy fire. Maybe it’s a sign of the times that we live in, but that’s a discussion for another day.


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