The Spark

“The emancipation of the working class will only be achieved by the working class itself.” — Karl Marx

Movie Review:
American Sniper

Feb 2, 2015

The new Clint Eastwood movie American Sniper is breaking box office records for a January opening. This movie takes place during the Iraq War, a war that many people in the United States don’t want to acknowledge. But American Sniper is apparently appealing to people.

This movie does not question the Iraq War’s causes. It is based on the autobiography by Chris Kyle, and it engages the war through the soldiers like Chris, the main character.

The movie shows Iraqi towns which have been turned into ghost towns. Houses are poor, dilapidated and hammered by the war. Only a few people are hurriedly wandering on the streets. Doors and shops are closed. Most homes are empty, deserted because of the war.

The U.S. Army ravages through these towns, with their equipment and clothing from another world, banging on and bashing down doors, terrifying a few remaining residents, children, women and old people trapped by the war.

The movie starts with a scene where a heavily armed U.S. Army unit is advancing in an Iraqi town. A woman and her child appear from a house. The woman hands over a grenade to her young son and directs him to advance toward the U.S. soldiers. Chris targets the child and remembers his childhood, when his father explained to Chris and his brother that they have a right to respond when they are bullied. And then Chris kills the child.

This is his first human kill.

Then, the woman picks up the grenade, and Chris kills the woman.

This is his second kill.

Kyle does not talk about killing this child in his autobiography.

Chris has a counterpart: an Iraqi sniper, who competed in the Olympics before the war. Like Chris, the Iraqi sniper has a beautiful wife and a newborn child, and is an equally efficient killer. Both snipers have nothing else to do in this society at war besides killing others.

People around Chris question this war. His wife asks again and again why he is returning back to Iraq for tour after tour. His demoralized soldier brother, who had also been sent to Iraq, tells him there is nothing there. His soldier friend Marc tells Chris that if the evil in Iraq is the reason why they are there, it is not only in Iraq but everywhere in this world, and he is not sure about what they are doing in Iraq.

During his fourth tour of duty, Chris, a tough and confident looking man, eventually breaks down in the midst of a skirmish, calls his wife and tells her that he is coming home. But later, at his home, his wife catches Chris staring at a blank television in one moment and getting ready to beat his dog in the next. Other cars on the roads remind Chris of insurgents’ cars ambushing his vehicle on the Iraqi roads.

The movie is problematic. It is a patriotic movie, presenting to the viewer a “hero” who remains patriotic and never questions his role despite the horrors he helps to unleash.

At the same time, American Sniper displays anti-war sentiments and shows some of the real feelings and experiences of the people who fought – and are still fighting – this war, and some of the human consequences of the war.

The rich men’s wars take their toll. This movie gives a particular window into that toll.