American Sniper is another addition to a long line of films made by Clint Eastwood that paints a very concrete, black and white world.
His good versus bad tale about Navy SEAL sharpshooter Chris Kyle is ahead of the box office for a third straight week, giving the film a total box office revenue of $249 million. The film has also racked up six Oscar nominations. A large portion of the film’s success is indicative to Eastwood being an outstanding director, and Bradley Cooper’s captivating performance of the Navy SEAL.
However, the controversy attached to the film is the catalyst for separating it from all the other movies released this year. American Sniper reopened the debate about the US occupation of Iraq and has sparked pop culture’s concerns about how veterans should be viewed by society. Filmmaker Michael Moore brought attention to the film when he tweeted, “My uncle was killed by a sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot you in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders are worse.” His words were followed by an uproar from many Americans and media outlet Fox News.
Jeff Kyle, brother of “American Sniper” Chris Kyle, responded to Moore’s tweet on Fox News’s “Hannity” on January 31, 2015. He told Sean Hannity that American Sniper “puts the message out. It’s not a war story, it’s not a shoot ‘em up, blow ‘em up movie. It’s a story about a soldier in combat: whether it’s on the battlefield or off, he’s still in combat.”
Unfortunately, Americans have reacted unkindly to the film according to the American-Arab AntiDiscrimination Committee, or ADC. The ADC said, “A majority of the violent threats we have seen over the past few days are a result of how Arabs and Muslims are depicted in American Sniper.” The movie may intend to highlight the heroic life of Chris Kyle, but the film does perpetuate the Cowboys versus Indian motif in countless Eastwood films.
After seeing the movie, I understand why lots of ill-informed Americans would lash out toward Muslims, because almost every Muslim in the movie is a villain. Most of the Muslim enemy combatants were dressed in darker colors, and the American soldiers in lighter tones. A.O Scott of the New York Times said the film may be seen as “upholding the Hollywood western tradition of turning complicated historical events and characters into fables and heroes.”
All scrutiny aside, American Sniper’s success is well deserved because it does a fantastic job of depicting the moral struggles an American soldier faces. The omission of complicated political issues in the film did leave me with concerns about how America would react to Eastwood’s black and white portrayal of the Iraq War.
Nonetheless, like many Americans, the movie gave me a newfound respect for veterans and their families, because it provided me with an inside look into the psychological challenges a soldier faces when defending their country.