The Student News Site of Ballard High School



Follow Us on Instagram

Proceed with Caution

Clint Eastwood tells a story with dangerous implied messages

Meagen Tajalle, Staff Reporter
Originally published February 26, 2015

Clint Eastwood’s “American Sniper” has become the subject of much cultural meditation. The name it’s made for itself is appended in equal measure to Oscar nominations and accolades, along with dispute over whether the film has inflamed sentiments of Islamic bigotry as with those widespread examples on twitter under the hashtag #AmericanSniper.

“American Sniper,” directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the true story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) throughout his four tours in Iraq. The story, captivatingly told, is one of a man hard-wired to protect. The implications in this film, however, could be as dangerous as Kyle was because it encourages Islamophobia.

Kyle’s job is to watch from above and take out potential threats to soldiers on the ground. After the first scene, the film goes into a series of flashbacks, one of which shows Kyle defending his younger brother from bullies.

That night at the dinner table he sits and listens to his father lecture about the sheep, the sheepherders, and the wolves — meaning victims, protectors and bullies. After that, Kyle sets out to be a sheepherder.

Bradley Cooper deserves the Oscar his performance was nominated for. Kyle never questions the morality of his actions. Cooper manages to balance conviction and certainty with the inevitable emotional instability of Kyle’s time in Iraq.

The sequence of events in “American Sniper” captivate the audience just as much as the dialogue and the performances. We meet Kyle mid-tour when he’s faced with the decision of whether or not to shoot a woman and child. The story shifts to his upbringing, moving onto his young adulthood working in the rodeo, and then the moment he decides to enlist.

From then on we go back and forth between his contrasting experiences at boot camp and his relationship with Taya Studebaker, who he eventually marries.

Kyle refers to Iraqis as “savages” repeatedly throughout the film. Nearly every Iraqi character intentionally threatens Kyle and his troops. One man seems hospitable and generous at first, but turns out to be an enemy sniper.

The film justifies Kyle’s violence towards the Iraqi people he encounters. Many of his targets are Iraqis who have harmed his friends and fellow soldiers; this serves as his motivation, and Eastwood’s justification.

Some of these actions were justified, but the film is telling us that Kyle’s hundreds of kills were not only necessary but also heroic. He was seeking vengeful justice.

The problem with the justifications of his actions and the way the Iraqi people are portrayed is that we forget, if only for the duration of the film, about the civilians being killed who are truly innocent. We forget to question why troops were in Iraq in the first place, because Chris Kyle just wants to protect the people at home. We forget that religion and the ethnicity don’t make people killers, choices do.

“American Sniper” is undoubtedly worth seeing, but audiences must beware of what it tries to tell them. Watch this movie for the artistry of structure and performance, but be wary how a valuable performance, a well told story may affect your perceptions of the real lives that exist beyond the art.

Leave a Comment
Donate to Talisman

Your donation will support the student journalists of Ballard High School. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
Donate to Talisman

Comments (0)

All Talisman Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Activate Search
Proceed with Caution