Every age has the heroes it deserves, as the saying goes. To judge from the success of the movie “American Sniper,” the hero of the current moment would be the trained killer.
Director Clint Eastwood’s movie has been highly praised and loudly criticized. Each new round of critical and public controversy over its presentation of war, veterans and their families boosts its ticket sales higher. It is the highest grossing war movie ever made in the United States.
Why has this movie become “a cultural phenomenon,” as many term it? The answer lies in its focus on the figure of the sniper, whose military role isolates what is universally most fraught about warfare — the act of targeting and shooting a human being — and yet who also stands for values that are particularly cherished by many Americans.
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