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American Sniper: Just Another “Us” Against “Them” Movie?

by Marta Tandori (writer), suburbs of Toronto, Canada, February 05, 2015

As long as humanity exists, wars will continue to be waged.

This past weekend, my husband and I went to see American Sniper, the 2014 biographical war drama film based on the book, American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History written by Chris Kyle, with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. My husband had looked forward to seeing the movie. Me – not so much. As a writer of mystery novels, I’m no stranger to “offing” my characters in inventive ways but I’m nevertheless the kind of gal who still yearns for happy endings and prefers to watch a movie without having to keep tabs on a growing body count (something that didn’t seem to concern my husband one iota as he plowed his way through a tub of popcorn, his eyes never leaving the screen).

The book and the movie immortalize the career of Chris Kyle, the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history. With 255 kills, 160 of which were officially confirmed by the Department of Justice, Chris quickly earned the nickname “Legend” throughout the military, thanks to his many kills. The movie was directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper in the titular role. Suffice it to say, the violence, bloodshed and body count throughout the movie were a stomach-churning constant but the movie also gave consideration to several important issues such as the toll war takes on a family whose members serve in the military and war’s after-effects once the soldiers return to civilian life.

American Sniper garnered six Academy award nominations as well as its share of heavy criticism from various fronts, primarily for lionizing the gun culture and for promoting blind adoration of the military. Promoting blind adoration of the military? Not necessarily. Sending a message of “us against them to keep them out” – most definitely. Nowhere in American Sniper is this more evident than in a brief scene where one of the characters asks Bradley Cooper’s character, Chris, why he keeps going back to Iraq (he had done four tours). Chris’ response was: So that they don’t come here. This is certainly an altruistic take on the good guys/bad guys scenario but sadly enough, recent events in our history involving homegrown terrorists in our own backyards have convoluted the “us” and “them” theories, making his statement naively unrealistic.

Take for instance the Boston Marathon bombings and related subsequent shootings which began on April 15, 2013 and killed four people and injured an estimated 264 others, instigated by two Chechen brothers motivated by extremist Islamic beliefs and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The attack was on U.S. soil by two brothers who had immigrated to the U.S. as refugees.Then there were the two Islamist terrorists armed with assault rifles and other weapons who forced their way into the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a French satirical newspaper in Paris on January 7, 2015, killing eleven and injuring another eleven as they shouted “Allahu Akbar” during their attack.Five others were subsequently killed and another eleven wounded in related shootings that followed in another French region, also by Islamic terrorists, the gunmen belonging to a branch of Al-Quaeda.And who can forget the horror of September 11, 2001 and the series of co-ordinated terrorist attacks by Al-Quaeda on the U.S.?All these horrific events raise some hard-hitting questions how do you tell the good guys from the bad and how do you keep them out of your peaceful nation when they were born there?

Responding to those critics that considered the movie as being excessively violent and one which celebrated war and killing, director Eastwood remarked, “I was a child growing up during World War II.That was supposed to be the one to end all wars.And four years later, I was standing at the draft board being drafted during the Korean conflict, and then after that there was Vietnam, and it goes on and on forever.I just wonder…does this ever stop?No, it doesn’t.”

Sadly enough, Eastwood may very well be right on that score.As long as humanity exists, wars will continue to be waged.Now the question becomes:Instead of going “off” to war, how long before we’re deploying our soldiers to fight wars in our own backyard?



About the Writer

If you need someone to count to ten in seven languages or are lost and all you've got is a map, then I'm definitely your gal but if you need something assembled and all you've got is an Allen wrench and a set of instructions, then we're both in trouble!
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7 comments on American Sniper: Just Another “Us” Against “Them” Movie?

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By Caballero_69 on February 05, 2015 at 10:23 am

I have real issues with what may or may not be the message of this movie. It is a fact that the attack on Iraq was launched and continued under false pretenses. "So that they don’t come here."

They, in the form of Iraqis, were never coming over here. They were not involved in the 9-11 attacks. The movie does not make that clear. In fact, as the scene you site illustrates, it obscures it.

It may be an entertaining movie, but I cannot bring myself to spend money to watch it. For me, it, like the real Chris Kyle, has too many unresolved issues. Also, its attempted whitewash, however lame or slight, of a completely unjustified aggression by war mongering chicken hawks, means it does not deserve any of my money and very much of my time.

The fact that war is Hell does not mean we should patronize movies that attempt to perpetuate false narratives and make silk purses out of sow's ears.

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By Marta Tandori on February 05, 2015 at 02:08 pm

I certainly agree with you, Caballero, when you say that war is hell - no two ways about it.

As for not patronizing movies that attempt to perpetuate false narratives and make silk purses out of sow's ears, yes and no. ALL movies, to a degree, perpetuate false narratives - it's called fiction. As for biographical movies, I think it's fair to say that even the most well-intended neutral biopic will have some kind of a "spin" on it. Whether you buy into the message a movie is selling is your perogative.

Luckily, we live in a technologically-advanced age where information is readily available and immediate in the form of news programs like CNN, cable television, documentaries, and the like. As a result, we're able to consider and analyze an issue from more than one side and draw our own informed opinions.

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By riginal on February 05, 2015 at 06:29 pm

pertinent comments by all. Malcom Frazer, a past Prime Minister of Australia,(pretty good one by today's standards we have to endure with bated breath) said in a media 'tell all' some time back in retirement that he was dead against the notion of invading Iraq but reluctantly succumbed against his better judgement, caught inbetween, had to capitulate for obvious politics.In conclusion he pointed out the absolute mayhem now embracing the whole country, stating that it was now far worse off- with pertinent facts. It's history and atrocities can be argued over in hindsight skirmish after skirmish. As you rightly say,it will never end. Hence the seeming popularity of such shows proliferating,'How to get away with murder.' The reality is...it has already been got away with to the detriment of the innocent but then at the end of the day whomever the media talks to group by splintered opposing group each dons the mantle of 'innocent,' stating, or more to the point, reopening old wounds from past conflict. And when you look at the end result of the devastation God must think..."stop making a mess and go to mass." But then the religious issue of what constitutes the right belief, right interpreted religion rears its ugly head. Interpretation using firepower backup as the point of argument leaves a lot unanswered questions. A lot of brave people have fought and died for what they believed in. And their children and their children look on with resignation..."what in hell's name is wrong with you adults?" Only God knows. Sometimes the war zones give me the impression that eveyone fighting over a bunch of rocks could or should all sit down and empty the rocks out of their heads. I know they are fighting for what's right and peace in their own individual mind. Mind you...the question begs...a piece of what? Whatever's left of a pockmarked moonscape? The saying, "winners are grinners"...seems to have been substituted by "grimace". I'm not smart enough to come up with an answer. People voted in earning inordinate amounts of money with the best of the best advisers try their utmost i guess but what's good for the warring 'gooses' doesn't seem to suit the gander of proferred peace. So it sits with ruffled perplexed feathers of consternation. Nice post Marta. Sobering.

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By Marta Tandori on February 06, 2015 at 07:54 am

Thank you for your kind comments, riginal.

While the effects of war do have a positive effect at times, the positive effects aren't necessarily evident for a long time after the fact. Cities, villages and families are ripped apart and all suffer until the economy is stabilized, a government re-instated or replaced and life returns to some semblance of normalcy (if in fact it ever does).

It's said that the only real victors of war are the companies profiting from government contracts that further the war effort. I don't know what the answer to any of this is except that I whole-heartedly agree with Caballero's assessment that war is hell, no two ways about it.

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By addiebaldric on February 06, 2015 at 08:13 am

Do a movie report on Lone Survivor. The other movie, American Sniper is immediately too controversial for today's liberals to recognize.Movie Leather Jackets

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By riginal on February 06, 2015 at 09:11 am

yes Marta i agree, and may i just add; if ulterior motives and hidden agenda were the catalysts to render people in a war room discussing a planned attack- speechless...the silence would be profound...and deafening. Just wondering if munition supplies dried up miraculously and picks and shovels were introduced whether some of the factions would have a 'light bulb' moment and start digging in agriculture? As opposed to digging their graves. Sounds impractical i know. But then before the advent of opium poppy growing it was touted that had the growers been encouraged to grow vegetables things may have turned out different. Hard to get a high on beans...would leave one open to an attack of the killer tomatoes? I guess reform has to start at the top but officials in China of late, one in particular, found with forty million dollars Australian stacked in his house! Maybe he has a second job peddling a rickshaw? Or just peddling? Have a great weekend...cheers.

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By Susan Fernando on March 27, 2015 at 04:06 am

My thoughts on American Sniper after viewing the movie the other day... Would love to know what you think!

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