American Sniper, like many of Clint Eastwood’s movies, is about murky choices concerning violence when the line between right and wrong isn’t clear at all. His movies let viewers make their own decisions, are not overtly political, focus on the personal, on the lives of those involved, and yes, on payback. Unforgiven, High Plains Drifter, and Pale Rider are about flawed, violent men who use violence to stop nasty, corrupt violent men. He said of High Plains Drifter “it’s just an allegory … a speculation on what happens when they go ahead and kill the sheriff and somebody comes back and calls the town’s conscience to bear. There’s always retribution for your deeds.”
Ross Caputi, a Marine who was in Iraq when Chris Kyle was, has an impassioned response to American Sniper. He believes we had no right to be there and is now involved in the Islah Reparations Project, which seek reparations for Iraqis.
One scene shows Chris in a moral dilemma as he is on a rooftop with his sniper rifle, and through the scope he sees a woman walking with a young child next to her (presumably her son) as she carries a grenade toward a US patrol. Chris must either kill a mother and her child or leave his countrymen exposed to an attack.
Chris kills both the woman and her son. Although visibly conflicted about what he felt obligated to do, he comments that, “that was evil like I ain’t never seen before”.
I believe there is another moral dilemma in this scene that may not be obvious to American viewers: That woman had every right to attack the illegal, foreign invaders in her country, whether you agree with her tactics or not. We had no right to invade a sovereign nation, occupy it against the will of the majority of its citizens, and patrol their streets.
This is exactly the kind of hard, murky choice that Clint Eastwood focuses on in his movies. In my opinion, we indeed had no right to be in Iraq. However, if I was there and saw one of my comrades about to get killed by a suicide bomber, I’d shoot them too, even if it was a mother and child. You might too.
Eastwood says the film is antiwar because:
“The biggest antiwar statement any film” can make is to show “the fact of what [war] does to the family and the people who have to go back into civilian life like Chris Kyle did.”
Those who slams the movie for not showing how we got into Iraq I think miss the point of Eastwood’s films.They are much more concerned with the personal than with making Big Statements, are deliberately murky, and let the viewer draw their own conclusions.