‘American Sniper’ Scares Liberal ‘Thought Leaders’

AP Photo
Warner Bros.

Even though Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper won praise from many left-leaning media outlets during its limited release, there’s a major backlash from the hard left underway, now thatthe film is shattering records in wide release.

$105 million opening weekend? No wonder competing studio executives feel like they just got walloped by a Marvel superhero film.

The backlash emerged in the crudest possible terms from the usual suspects:

And from certain individuals who really ought to show more gratitude to the men and women who risk their lives to protect their freedom of speech from totalitarian evil:

If you haven’t seen “Inglorious Basterds,” the movie-within-a-movie he’s referring to is a Nazi propaganda film.

Just to put all my cards on the table, this is my response:

If you’ve seen “American Sniper,” you’ll have a better appreciation of the context surrounding the “sheepdogs” comment. And if that, plus the huge theater crowds and Oscar buzz hasn’t already motivated you to see “American Sniper,” just think of all the bloated parasites you’ll be pissing off.

One of the reasons liberals are having such deep second thoughts about a movie the media establishment was praising to the heavens just a few weeks ago is that it’s not just a “heartland hit.” It’s hard to get to $105 million on opening weekend without playing well in red, blue, and purple states.

That’s because Clint Eastwood and his screenwriters have artfully crafted a film that delivers its themes of patriotism, courage, sacrifice, and the awful burden of war in a very accessible way. There are no “sucker punches” here. The lunatics of the hard left are losing their cookies because they think American Sniper will singlehandedly undo a decade of anti-Bush, anti-Iraq War propaganda, in part because it’s probably going to gross more than all the anti-war bombs of the Aughts put together, if it hasn’t already.

In truth, I doubt many ordinary movie-goers opposed to the Iraq War are emerging from theaters this weekend with their perspective changed. What they might be bringing with them is a deeper understanding of the people who profoundly disagree with them, and were willing to back up their principles with their very lives.

Eastwood has long been fascinated by the psychological and spiritual toll killing exacts upon good men, from cowboys of old to modern-day cops and soldiers. He asks the same question another film series currently doing very well at the box office asks, at the conclusion of its tales of high fantasy: Can you go home again after a terrible war, and resume the gentle life of work and family? Do you ever really come back from a pitched battle against the forces of Mordor, or al-Qaeda? Can a good man carry the burden of the awful things he must do to defeat such monsters?

Chris Kyle was such a good man, duty called upon him to do some terrible things… and he did come back. Not only that, but he helped a lot of other soldiers complete the journey home as well. My own theater experience matched reports I’ve heard from coast-to-coast: dead silence from a packed theater until the end-credits sequence was over, followed by applause loud enough to drown out the sobbing. I believe some of that reaction comes from the film being so engrossing that audience members who went in knowing the end of the story were persuaded to forget it.

Gently but firmly, without cheap shots or brainwashing tactics, Clint Eastwood and his stars, Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, help the audience understand the mind of a warrior, the terrible trials to which he was subjected, the price he and his family paid for his service… and yes, the dark allure of war, the appeal of military life, and the profound dissonance of returning from combat to the ordinary world. Combat time runs faster than peace time; it’s not easy for combat veterans to reset their clocks. It is hard to stop looking for threats everywhere, or accept that your most important missions for the day might include getting your car fixed and picking up some groceries.

American Sniper contains little in the way of politics. The Clinton, Bush, and Obama administrations are not discussed, although their policies played an important role in shaping Chris Kyle’s life. He sees a threat when he learns of the USS Cole bombing, and he knows he has to fight it when he watches the towers come down on 9/11. A few other characters directly involved in the Iraq War deliver brief opinions about it, but there are no rambling diatribes of the sort liberal screenwriters have baked into every flop they’ve dumped in theaters since 9/11. This is a story told primarily from Kyle’s perspective, with its primary concern being the honest portrayal of his character. It’s going to blow the minds of people who were under the impression American troops fighting in Iraq are either psychopaths or witless dupes. It will come as a wake-up call to those who have persuaded themselves to forget who the enemy is… or to forget that he’s still out there.

As Kyle points out during the film, if we don’t fight this evil over there, we’re going to fight them over here, and once you appreciate what that kind of battle did to Fallujah, you won’t be eager to see San Diego undergo a similar makeover. Eastwood couldn’t have known his film would go into wide release so soon after another horrifying reminder that this evil is very interested in putting its roots down on Western soil and spilling blood on Western streets. It has become commonplace to speak of the enemy’s front-line troops as “lone wolves.” As you can see from the Tweets at the beginning of this article, the wolves have their supporters within our flock. We need sheepdogs to keep those wolves away, and the sheepdogs deserve respect, which not even the well-meaning can properly render without understanding.

American Sniper enrages the hard left because it delivers such understanding, in a manner both compelling and inviting. As John Nolte pointed out in his review, there’s nothing ambiguous about where Chris Kyle stood, why he served, or the strength of his commitment. It can be taken as a measure of Eastwood’s directing skill, and Cooper’s incredibly empathetic performance, that some liberal critics have found enough wiggle room to convince themselves it can be interpreted as an “anti-war” film. Of course Kyle and his brothers-in-arms are “anti-war,” you nitwits. But they’re also anti-flying-jetliners-into-skyscrapers, anti-using-mothers-as-suicide-bombers, and anti-torturing-kids-in-front-of-their-parents. They call evil by its proper name, and having spoken thus, they take up arms against it.

There’s a lot for the heartland audience to applaud in American Sniper, but really nothing for anyone else to feel insulted by, unless you’re the sort who thinks the al-Qaeda sniper should have been portrayed as the hero of the story. There really aren’t that many people who see it that way, not even among the most reliable Democrat voters. Those folks aren’t going to like learning what so many of their “thought leaders” really think about America and her defenders. Thanks again for flushing them out, and rest easy, sheepdog.