In the Dark

Hopalong Rides the Iraqi Range

American Sniper
Produced and distributed by Warner Brothers
Screenplay by Jason Hall
Directed by Clint Eastwood

We’re told that during his later career director John Huston frequently preferred reading a good newspaper while his actors performed a scene before the camera.  He believed in leaving them to their own devices, among which he trusted thespian talent would be salient.

I wonder if Clint Eastwood has reached this level of creative felicity.  In American Sniper, the story of Chris Kyle’s four tours in Iraq as a Navy SEAL sniper, Eastwood seems to have stood well off to the side of his players and let them perform unencumbered while he quietly pared his nails.  There’s passion in the performances of Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle and Sienna Miller as his wife, Taya, but there’s something eerily disinterested if not downright lazy about Eastwood’s direction.  After watching innumerable battles and killings in which Kyle participated, we come away from the film wondering what Eastwood meant to say.  Is this a celebration of American courage in Iraq?  Or is it a denunciation of America’s stupidity for commanding her sons to wage a pointless, self-destructive, and profoundly illegal war?

The narrative can readily support either interpretation.  Neoconservatives prefer the first, of course,...

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