16 January 2015
I plan to see Clint Eastwood's American Sniper this weekend and review it at my Mondo 70 movie blog. From early reports it seems to be the most authentic "Clint Eastwood" movie in a while in its reputed ambivalence toward wartime heroism. "It's a helluva thing, killing a man," Eastwood said in Unforgiven, and that seems to be the ultimate subject of his adaptation of the late Chris Kyle's memoir. After opening in the big cities in time for Academy consideration the film has received a number of Oscar nominations, including for Best Picture, although Eastwood himself wasn't nominated for direction. The nomination announcements yesterday, on top of the popularity of Kyle's book, make it look like a big box-office weekend for Sniper. Meanwhile, some people clearly have prejudged the film. While Eastwood has long been on record opposing the invasion of Iraq, Sniper has been derided by some viewers, and by some who haven't viewed it, as an uncritical endorsement of the entire War on Terror, and thus a wicked film. Others say they refuse to watch the movie because they can't forgive Eastwood's eccentric empty-chair diatribe against President Obama at the 2012 Republican National Convention. From that partisan perspective, Sniper can only be a hateful picture, if not outright Republican propaganda. Inevitably, partisan prejudice against Eastwood -- who continues to describe himself as more libertarian than Republican -- provoked a backlash from right-wingers who now consider it their partisan or patriotic duty to see the movie and make it as big a hit as possible. If one side sees Sniper as an uncritical endorsement of an unjust war, and hate it, the other hopes to see it as an uncritical endorsement of a righteous war, and love it. The more credible reviews I've read in advance of my own viewing claim that the picture fits neither partisan model. They suggest that proper appreciation of the picture requires more nuanced intelligence than partisans are capable of -- but that's something I can only verify by seeing the thing myself. Check Mondo 70 later this weekend for my verdict.