Now Playing: ‘American Sniper’ toes line of extreme patriotism

Jackson French, Columnist

Jackson French

“American Sniper” is an enthralling portrait of the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. The movie shows the toll warfare has on the individual both on the battlefield and back at home. Unfortunately, director Clint Eastwood dampens the film’s effectiveness with its overt glorification of the protagonist.

Bradley Cooper, starring as Chris Kyle, the venerated sniper, is at the center of this movie. His performance is astonishing. As a duty-driven but conflicted soldier, Cooper shows many sides of this pseudo-legend. The killings Kyle commits haunt him and he feels personally responsible for the safety of every American soldier. Post- traumatic stress disorder takes an awful toll on him and his family as well.

The viewer gets a strong sense of his anguish when the film shows him hearing the din of battle in an empty room and how unresponsive he is to his family’s needs. Though slightly glorified, this character is shown to have more depth than it seems at first. 


Kyle, as he’s presented in “American Sniper,” is Eastwood’s ideal patriot. In the film, he’s a man whose sole motivation is his country’s interests. Kyle never questions why he has to kill in the first place despite the toll the killings take on his psyche. By portraying Kyle as a role model, Eastwood glorifies such blind obedience. 

In one scene, Kyle’s firesquad raids the house of an innocent family. The film makes Kyle look heroic while invading the home and threatening its residents. In this movie, Eastwood seems to be saying that an American soldier doing his duty shouldn’t be held accountable for war crimes. 

“American Sniper” can seem like a recruitment tool at points but also illustrates how awful war is. The movie’s Iraqi cityscapes are appropriately hellish, its battles chaotic and its violence impactful. There’s a pervading and accurate sense that anyone could die at any time. 

Almost every moment of “American Sniper” set in Iraq is a tense and horrifying representation of the war. Though it clashes with the film’s overall jingoistic message, several amazingly well-done portions grab your attention and don’t let go.

“American Sniper” displays an unhealthy amount of nationalism but tells its story with remarkable skill. Though it sometimes smells like propaganda, this movie is a solid examination of how the Iraq War affects veterans.