AMERICAN SNIPER: “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man…”

January 26, 2015 — 1 Comment

Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER (in theaters now)

“It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man. You take away all he’s got and all he’s ever gonna have.”

– Clint Eastwood as Bill Munny in UNFORGIVEN

I finally saw AMERICAN SNIPER yesterday after several aborted attempts to get into sold-out showings. I can’t say I was entertained nor was I scandalized. I experienced moments of excitement, moments of revulsion, moments of sadness and moments of relief. All good war movies are anti-war movies. AMERICAN SNIPER is no exception.

Wars march forward on the uncomplicated, un-nuanced backs of men like Chris Kyle. The sad thing is these men are pressed into service because of the incredibly complicated and endlessly nuanced issues of culture, religion, politics, the rights of people to govern themselves and the results of people being destroyed from within and without. But here’s the thing: Chris Kyle was not an uncomplicated, un-nuanced man. He just chose to play one in real life.

Movies often resonate with different people at different frequencies. Sometimes seeing a movie is an adventure in missing the point. The rhetoric on both sides of the AMERCIAN SNIPER debate seems to bear this out. Regardless of what Facebook posts might suggest, one’s opinion of AMERICAN SNIPER is not a referendum on one’s patriotism (or lack thereof). It is a 2 hour and 14 minute, R-rated Rorschach test. Would that we would think more about what our opinion of the film says about ourselves instead of wringing our hands about what others’ opinions say about them.

Just after Bill Munny (in Eastwood’s UNFORGIVEN) utters those memorable words about what it means to kill a man, his young charge – a guilt-stricken, first-time killer – says, “Yeah, well, I guess they had it comin’.” Munny replies, “We all got it comin’, kid.”

Indeed, we do.


One response to AMERICAN SNIPER: “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man…”


    Very astute of you to reference Unforgiven, since it’s a much better Eastwood film about the same basic theme, the psychic cost to those who perform violence. To me, American Sniper had to keep trying to prove it was all true, yet it couldn’t manage the most important feat – showing men breaking down with guilt and rebuilding, reconnecting with the non-combat world.


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