American Sniper and Its Ideological Contradictions

From an ideological standpoint, it is too easy to damn Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper, but from a cinematic perspective, the film relies on skilfully staged action scenes and a narrative rhythm that never loses its momentum.

While watching the film, I tried to ignore its ideological agenda by being absorbed in pure drama and the sense of suspense that enveloped all action scenes. I also confess that my hostility to Islamic fundamentalism compelled me to side with the American soldiers throughout the film. I found myself deeply wishing the total annihilation of al-Qaeda and its operatives that were targeting the American soldiers by either sniping or suicide bombing.

At the same time, in my more rational moments, I was awakened to the truth that the origin of all chaos and destruction in Iraq was jingoistic tendencies (formulated by Rumsfeld’s theory of the “unknown known”) and the greed of corporations that looked to reap profits from this war. It is therefore possible that, like Chomsky, we appraise the film as a piece of propaganda for the domination of American Imperialism in the world.

However, the film can also be viewed as a realistic drama about war which, as it drags on, it obliterates entirely the line between good and evil. I know that Eastwood is a right wing Republican that supports war-mongering policies, but the film’s outlook is fractured by ideological contradictions that make any one-sided judgment about American Sniper quite difficult.