Monday, January 19, 2015

The Gift Of Aggression: American Sniper & an Anti-War Statement

If you have all ready seen Clint Eastwood's American Sniper and liked it, please, stop reading: I am glad you enjoyed it and I truly wish not to ruin it for you. If you haven't seen the film, and have been thinking about it, I would discourage you. At this point in history, do you really think Hollywood would nominate a film for Best Picture that was pro-America, pro-tradition, pro-men and women in the military and pro-protecting ourselves from those who want to annihilate us? Mr. Eastwood--whose films I have not liked since Unforgiven--indulges in the luxury of utopia: "The moral ruler is set at 10, and any actions in the real world are going to be set against it, and I will show them all for how ugly they are, if I think they are ugly." Perhaps you've seen the article of Michael Moore saying he was "taught snipers were cowards?" Mr. Eastwood appears to agree with him: in this article, Eastwood says that this film is his "biggest anti-war statement," and it's sad that he "used" Kyle as a vehicle for his own disguised agenda.
I'm sure you're saying, "But Eastwood spoke at the Republican National Convention, he hates Obama!" Anyone with 1/10th working brain capacity hates Obama. Eastwood might talk like a Republican, but he makes films like a liberal. I don't know where he gets such a tub-full of self-righteousness, but I don't support holding up a standard to which no one can meet, and then kicking them for it, and spitting on all those who support the one who is fallen. The scene where we are told that Kyle was killed, a title card comes up and says that Kyle was killed by a "veteran." Instead of saying, Kyle was killed by someone heavily medicated on anti-depressants (and who knows what else) Mr. Eastwood, in his self-righteousness, decides to implicate all military men and women as murderers, and I can't abide by that. Ben Affleck, using the same device of "leaving out something" to make his point, left out that the Iranian hostages were freed the day Ronald Reagan was sworn in as President in his film Argo, and we see Eastwood imitating him in that. Another item I would like to point out is Eastwood's mocking of cowboys: the film briefly shows us Kyle's cowboy days and it's clear that Eastwood looks at them as being "hicks" or "hillbillies," (the word "redneck" is even used).  Who made his career out of portraying cowboys, Mr. Eastwood? This is the kind of superior self-righteousness running throughout the film, that Mr. Eastwood considers himself irreproachable in all things, but everyone else is guilty. 
I was ready to walk out of the theater after the first five minutes of the film. Mr. Kyle, Chris Kyle's father, instructs his two boys when they are young that there are three type of people in the world: sheep, wolves and sheep dogs. Sheep cannot defend themselves; wolves prey on the helpless, but those born with the "gift of aggression," are the sheepdogs and should use that gift to protect the sheep from the wolves. Mr. Kyle then says there won't be any sheep in their family and takes off his belt in a threatening gesture (I know that gesture, because my dad took his belt off to give me a well-deserved licking plenty of times in my childhood).  This "gift of aggression" haunts the image of Chris Kyle throughout the film: he's not a strong, white, traditional, patriotic, heterosexual male defending his country and family, Eastwood paints him as the symbol of American super-powerism that is aggressive for the sake of being aggressive, and here are the ways.
As in all our discussions, women of child-bearing age, like Taya who is pregnant above, symbolizes "the motherland." What does she do? Like most women, she wants her husband to come home, but in this film, it's different. It's like she becomes American policy wanting the troops to come home, and the troops (Kyle) keep returning and leaving their families makes it look like they are going to Iraq just to be bullies, just to kill people, just to take out their aggression. Taya's (in the film) constant complaints about not knowing him anymore start to turn you against Kyle because he causes her so much grief and this is part of the film's agenda. On a different note, when Kyle does call his wife and tell her he is ready to come home, Eastwood makes it look like a "competition" with the Muslim sniper Mustafa. Having been in the Olympics, Mustafa is the best sniper for the Iraqis, and Kyle is determined to kill him. We see a clip of Mustafa in his home, his wife holding their baby, drawing a (simplistic) comparison between Kyle's own family and Mustafa's; after finally killing Mustafa, so he can't do to Americans what Kyle has done to Iraqis (Eastwood wants you to know), then Kyle is ready to come home, THEN--now that the "competition is over and he has won the "glory" of killing their best sniper--he's ready to leave, he won't stay to continue protecting Americans, he just wanted to stay there to kill Mustafa for his own personal glory. 
The opening scene is the disembodied noise of the Muslim call to prayer, juxtaposed against the sound of a tank: the Muslims, then, are symbolized by prayer throughout the film, while the US is symbolized by a tank crushing all the rubble in its path. We have just seen another film do this exact same thing: Fury, with Brad Pitt, and identifying the US with a merciless tank is not the only thing Eastwood employs from Fury. Even though we see a Muslim woman give her child a tank grenade to throw, and Kyle has to kill the kid--who obviously is in the process of trying to kill Marines--and the Muslim woman runs over to the body of her dead boy but--instead of embracing her dead child, or lamenting him in anyway--without hesitation, she picks up the grenade to throw it herself: her hatred of the US is greater than any love for her son, or herself.
But, it gets worse,...
There is another film American Sniper borrows from, the most excellent The Hurt Locker: you can't see the war-torn streets without thinking of Kathryn Bigelow's amazing film. When The Hurt Locker came out, America was confident that we had the right to defend ourselves against terrorists--doesn't everyone?--but in American Sniper, we are the terrorists, and it makes me sick. In The Hurt Locker, America was there making a difference, but in American Sniper, America was making it worse, not only for the people there (who had us to hell and back), but even for Americans at home. On an entirely different note, when Kyle is in training to become a Navy Seal, one of the men training with him is black, and a black trainer asks the black trainee if he thinks he is really going to make it to being a Navy Seal, and the black trainee responds, "No, I am one of the New Blacks, I can't jump as high or run as fast," something along those lines. What does this mean, because this is rather shocking? The "New Black" would be a black person under socialism, who is not allowed to run as fast as they can, or jump as high as they can jump, because in a socialist society, everyone is equal, even if--or, rather, especially if--they are not equal. So a point is being made against socialism that, if minorities think a socialist society is going to work in their favor, there are some things they should think about losing.
Not only does Eastwood apparently take the side of the Muslims after 9/11--which the attack is clearly shown in the film--but he even seems to try and sneak in a comparison of Chris Kyle, the Marines and Seals to Nazis: when questioned about the people he has killed, Kyle says, I was just doing my job and following orders to protect our own. I will say, this might just be me, I may be exaggerating this point, but that was the first thought that came to my mind when I heard it, and like Fury--never articulating why the US was in World War II to fight the Nazis because of how evil they were--Eastwood never articulates why America is over in Iraq; rather, he turns it into a personal competition between Kyle and Mustafa the assassin. This isn't patriotism, and this certainly isn't an honor to the great hero and legend, Chris Kyle; this isn't even good story-telling, which leads us back to our opening point.
Marc is one of Kyle's best friends, and in this scene, Marc confesses that he really doesn't know any longer why they are there fighting; he dies, and after his funeral, Taya asks about the letter he had written to his mom, lamenting the glory America was seeking after being over there. The impact that letter has on the film--while it might have been written by Marc--becomes the mouthpiece of Eastwood because it's obvious that he doesn't think America had the right--even with the backing of the international community--to go and protect ourselves against future terror attacks. Chris Kyle tells his wife that, when Marc wrote that letter, that's when he died because he gave up; this makes it look like Kyle has been brainwashed, and can't think for himself, and that "the legend" Kyle becomes to all the men over there, is just as vainglorious as the glory seeking Marc lamented in his letter that his weeping mother read at his funeral. 
Why would the Academy, who is only nominating pro-socialist and anti-capitalist films, nominate American Sniper for Best Picture? Because the film isn't a tribute to Chris Kyle, or any of our brave men and women in uniform, and to their families, rather, it's a form of propaganda to undermine American confidence, tradition and position in the world. In other words, Eastwood has sunk to using Obama's own tactic of "degrading ISIS" to defeat them by degrading America to defeat us. Why? Eastwood isn't a conservative, and if you didn't realize that watching J. Edgar with Leonardo DiCaprio, I don't know how much more he will have to do to prove that, just because he will speak out against Obama, doesn't mean he will speak for America.
May God bless you, Chris Kyle, and your loved ones you left behind.
Eat Your Art Out,
The Fine Art Diner