‘There are three types of people in this world: sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.’
There has been much controversy surrounding Clint Eastwood’s latest film, American Sniper based on both its depiction of the central character, Chris Kyle and the innocents caught in the cross fire of bullets and politics. Many arguments have been forged around the film based on its apparent nationalist leanings, all of which are embedded in many US war films leading to propagandist views. Is American Sniper a patriotic, often one-sided view? Absolutely – the clue is in the title. Is American Sniper ground breaking cinema? No – nor does it try to be anything else. What it does do is attempt to deliver how one man becomes a killer and in his own warped perception, a ‘sheep dog’ who protects the flock only to leave what is most important behind as he sheds all humanity in order to pull the trigger.
It is interesting to note that Steven Spielberg was originally set to direct and had plans to expand on the Iraqi sniper and in equal measure show a point of view that would help humanise the other side. Aside from this being a less marketable offering, it is Eastwood’s fearless trademark approach of stripped down efficiency to his direction that also makes it such a different film. It is more than clear that, although it is briefly touched upon in a scene that lasts no more than a minute with the opposing sniper’s wife and child watching him pick up his rifle; Eastwood’s story was to focus primarily on Kyle and the impact of his killer instinct on not just himself but also his own wife and children. It is here that both Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, considering the sensitive nature of the story, deliver more than earnest performances – Miller in particular who is beginning to show a deft in her acting that is marking somewhat of a recent revival of her career.
Unfortunately it is the nature of film to manipulate and sacrifice most truth for cinematic effect yet, after the shit storm has settled; there needs to be a degree of responsibility in the messages it conveys. Most see this film as what it is and find it difficult to see past how one of the most respected and revered filmmakers has the only balls in Hollywood to deliver a film that doesn’t just provoke but aims for the kill. Only Clint could do this and for that alone there is a degree of respect in the film’s execution rather than that of Kyle’s own actions. Yet, in order to do that, there is the difficult decision of removing oneself from the original material and, in the wake of recent incidences at home and abroad that involves the potent image of the gun it begs another debate whether anyone should be watching such films at all.