John Podhoretz has a very fine review of American Sniper. I think he’s hit on why the film has been so successful. I hadn’t thought of it this way. Excerpt:
American Sniper bowls you over because it succeeds dramatically in making Chris Kyle’s story a parallel of the American experience in Iraq. The mission we see Chris embark upon is both practical and idealistic. The insurgents and their leaders are dreadful and monstrous and deserve their fates. The men on the front lines show resiliency and fortitude and immense seriousness of purpose. But the cause runs afoul of realities far above the pay grades of Kyle and his brethren. They did everything they were asked to do and more. Yet they would never taste victory.
This is the bitter truth about Iraq for all of us—whether you believe fighting the war was a mistake in the first place or you view the ultimate failure to have come about as a result of the political mishandling of the turnaround in the war’s fortunes after the 2007-08 surge. In this way, American Sniper is not only apolitical, but also antipolitical. It is the story of the effect of the war on the people who fought itand those they love—not on the country, not on Iraq, and not on America’s position in the world.
And that is one of the key reasons for the film’s astonishing and unprecedented success.
Read the whole thing. I dissent from its final line, not quoted here — and fair warning, readers: I’m not going to let the comments section on this post become another familiar argument about the Iraq War, neocons, etc. — but this review really does say something important about this movie — a film that both liberals and conservatives should see. There’s something in it to discomfit everyone, in the right way.