It’s not what you think it is.
The increasingly subtle Clint Eastwood continues to astound me with his film craftsmanship. You could say that his entire career, as actor and director, has been a progressively thoughtful exploration of violence and the effects of violence, the unseen costs of violence, and the lingering consequences of violence. In American Sniper, he’s made a film so well that pretty much everybody in the country completely missed the point of it. It’s an astoundingly disturbing portrait of how an environment of continuous war dehumanizes not only the people we send to fight it, but the people who cheer them on from the distant homeland, far removed from the day-to-day realities of that war. The problem is that the reaction to the film has proven that the film’s point is on target, if you’ll excuse the expression. In a way, the popularity of the film in certain hawkish circles is as eloquent a statement on how disconnected the people are from the realities of the violence committed in their name; similarly, the wave of disgust for the film in more left-leaning circles demonstrates a distinct inability to process any commentary less subtle than a sledgehammer – small wonder when what passes for ‘politically incorrect’ these days is the decidedly bland non-personality Bill Maher. I have no doubt that in years to come, when it can be viewed outside of the entrenched partisan ideologies that have misdefined it, American Sniper will be seen as one of the most insightful anti-war films ever made, a chilling exploration of the dehumanization society suffers through publicly-approved slaughter.