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Movie Review

There's More To 'American Sniper' Than Patriotism And Violence


American Sniper is Clint Eastwood's latest picture of men at war, and it isn't a pretty picture. The director who in 1986 tried in Heartbreak Ridge to make something noble and heroic out of the operation in Grenada is now looking at the less-than-John Wayne heroics of snipers.

Snipers are of necessity required to lie in wait and fire upon people in civilian clothes, who may or may not be combatants, even if they are women or children, both of whom are extremely valuable in guerrilla warfare. Keep an eye on how Bradley Cooper handles the problem of children if you want to see any psychological progress in regard to the morality of his job.

Eastwood is deliberately ambiguous as to whether Cooper is just not aware of the moral difficulties or is being corrupted by his duties. I think his problem is a little of both.

He tries to do the right thing, but the fact remains that he seems fully human only in the presence of warfare and his military buddies. At one point, his wife, Sienna Miller, pleads with him to become a human being again, but I am with the San Francisco reviewer in last Friday's Go! section, who wonders how much humanity Cooper ever had. He never seems comfortable in civilian life, and can't even communicate with Miller, who is no shrinking violet. Neither is Eastwood, who recognizes that in war, we need people like Cooper, whether we like them or not.

American Sniper includes a good deal of old-fashioned military action to appeal to the John Wayne fans, but like Eastwood's two movies about Iwo Jima in World War II, one from the American point of view and the other from the Japanese, it has a lot more on its mind than patriotism and violence.