Movie Review: “American Sniper” (Clint Eastwood, USA 2014)

I went in to this film unsure of what to expect. While Clint Eastwood has been an effective filmmaker and even against type once directed one of the more effective anti-violence films in history in Unforgiven (USA 1992), the public discourse around the film has entirely focused on an argument about whether the real-life basis for the film, Chris Kyle, should be viewed as a psychopathic kill or heroic patriot, with most claiming that the film depicts the latter but then being split on the propriety of that depiction. So, I did not know whether to expect the more thoughtful ruminations on the nature of violence and war that Eastwood has proven capable of providing or a jingoistic romp about the glory of the American soldier. Thankfully, I think the film was closer to the former than the public discussion would suggest, and though it was nowhere near the masterpiece that Unforgiven was, it was still an above-average film that was worth a viewing.

The film tells the story of Chris Kyle, a soldier who was credited with a huge number of kills during four tours of duty in Iraq. However, the film is not so much interested in what Kyle does in Iraq, his training, or even in what makes him such a great soldier. It’s interested in how the Perfect Soldier (which is how he is portrayed) adjusts back to civilian life. It’s a story we’ve seen many times before, but Eastwood tries telling us the story in a different way–breaking up the narrative and having Kyle attempting to adjust during his service. Continue reading