Clint Eastwood's American Sniper has caused quite a political storm in recent weeks. The Oscar nominated #Film sits at the top of the box office for the second week running, amassing over $200 million. It is based on the life of former Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle, who allegedly accumulated the largest recorded kill tally in U.S history for a sniper. Those associated with the film have rebuked any suggestions that it has a political spin to it, but the furore that has ensued between both ends of the political spectrum, tells another tale.
Bradley Cooper encapsulates the all American-Texan patriot to full effect in his portrayal of Chris Kyle, who died in 2013 after being killed by a fellow veteran. The film opens in shocking fashion, as we view from the scope of his rifle, the sight of a young woman handing a grenade to a young little boy. After some hesitation, he eliminates the female target, followed by the child. This female turned out to be his first kill as a sniper, but according to Kyle's memoirs, there was no child an the scene at all. The purpose of the child in the film was to accentuate the barbarous and inhumane nature of the enemy at hand, purely for dramatic effect. Such inaccuracies in a film are commonplace, but in the grand scheme of things, they provide substance to those that are opposed to what this film purportedly stands for.
This is a film that clearly polarises opinion, a film that quite possibly splits America into two thought systems. To many, this is a story of a true American hero, who put his life at risk for the sake of his country. It appears to show the internal gridlock of a soldier at war, the moral crisis that lingers in the mind long after the dust has settled. We see Kyle at home with his family after returning from tour, clearly troubled with what he has experienced. Despite this, he is always yearning to return to the battlefield, much to the dismay of his wife. And yet, it is not his blood thirsting desire to accumulate more kills that come to the fore, but his inane need to protect his country and his family. So staunch are the supporters of this film, a myriad of Republican figures have had their say, including Sarah Palin, who said that the critics were “spitting on the graves of freedom fighters who allow you to do what you do".
Kyle's memoirs show him to have less regard for the killings he was responsible for than the film suggests. Critics of this film will point to this quote from Kyle: “If you see anyone from about sixteen to sixty-five and they're male, shoot 'em. Kill every male you see. That wasn't the official language, but that was the idea”. Such nonchalant talk of killing men at sight doesn't fit the profile of a hero, though this kind of language is not expressed in the film itself which further detracts from the general authenticity of Kyle's portrayal. Anti-war liberalists have argued that the film serves as propaganda, in that the 9/11 attacks legitimised the invasion of Iraq, and that the portrayal of all Iraqis in this film are nothing but “savage”, the very term Kyle coined for them. Michael Moore remarked that “Snipers aren't heroes... We were taught snipers were cowards”, a sentiment that no doubt is shared by many a Call of Duty player. Whether or not you are in favour of the deeds of Chris Kyle, it is worth noting that he revelled in his deadly occupation; “I loved what I did, I still do... I'm not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun”.