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American Sniper (2014)
The most lethal sniper in U.S. history.
Filmmaker(s): Clint Eastwood

U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle takes his sole mission—protect his comrades—to heart and becomes one of the most lethal snipers in American history. His pinpoint accuracy not only saves countless lives but also makes him a prime target of insurgents. Despite grave danger and his struggle to be a good husband and father to his family back in the States, Kyle serves four tours of duty in Iraq. However, when he finally returns home, he finds that he cannot leave the war behind.

American Sniper (2014)


I watched this like many others, consuming a rather simple story. Superficially, we are to admire this soul, both as an individual and representative of a collective who ‘serve‘ us. As with Forgiven, we have some subtle exit from the story in the direction of despair for the country.

Along the way we have several other stories. In fact, the whole kick in the chest is that Chris Kyle didn‘t matter at all.

One extra story is that in his eighties, Clint Eastwood is still making films, competently. Any studio is eager to work with him because he is economically focused, doing what is needed only, and cleanly. In a way, Clint is the film model for this stereotype: cowboy, deadly, focused on the mission but quietly preoccupied. Tracking Clint (and Woody and Ridley) through their films is a lesson in mature creativity.

Clint is also a student of film history and appreciates the exploitable quality of neonoir. A key element in traditional noir is a regular guy caught up in forces not of his control. The other key element is that his life is manipulated by the viewers collectively. Neonoir adds some on-screen collective that the viewers join. A layered tension is in how the hero fights with this manipulative force, joined with our unease at being part of that force.

How Clint exploits that here: We identify with the hero in some ways. We would love for evil to be discrete, identifiable and killable. Slinky, dirty babbling people are handy tokens. We also identify with the nation that created this mess nearly from scratch. It is us that in some recognisable measure (in this film) that has ruined this simple man.

About the story itself??

I have a study of men who as filmmakers integrate their creative work with their lovers as actress. It is a pretty amazing thing to see collectively and presents a sort of meta-love story more powerful than the tales we see in the on-screen story. Clint himself has done this when younger.

But what about when a filmmaker is past sex, when hormones are no longer harnessable in the service of creative power? It isn’t celibacy, because there is no tense denial. It is always in the context of memories of loves sustained, and costs of passion. And it is always there, always. Watch how he says goodbye, first to Iraq, then to the family.

Posted in 2015

Ted’s Evaluation — 3 of 3: Worth watching.


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