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American Cinema in the Shadow of 9/11$
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Terence McSweeney

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9781474413817

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: September 2017

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9781474413817.001.0001

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The Mythic Shape of American Sniper (2015)

The Mythic Shape of American Sniper (2015)

Chapter:
(p.23) Chapter 1 The Mythic Shape of American Sniper (2015)
Source:
American Cinema in the Shadow of 9/11
Author(s):

John Shelton Lawrence

Robert Jewett

Publisher:
Edinburgh University Press
DOI:10.3366/edinburgh/9781474413817.003.0002

If one has any doubts about film's ability to function as a both a barometer and a catalyst of national discourse one only needs to turn to Clint Eastwood's American Sniper, here discussed by John Shelton Lawrence and Robert Jewett in the opening chapter of the volume. Lawrence and Jewett return to the terrain of their ground-breaking and influential works on the relationship between American film and culture, The American Monomyth (1988) and The Myth of the American Superhero (2002), in "The Mythic Shape of American Sniper (2015)" in which they explore how far Eastwood's film can be regarded as reaffirming the tropes of heroic narratives about American wars, or whether it offers a challenge to them. Their lucid and multi-layered engagement with the figure of Chris Kyle, both the person and the film's vivid incarnation of him, examines the reasons why the film has resonated so profoundly with vast sections of the American public to the extent that it was not only able to earn more money at the domestic box office than every single war film set in Iraq and Afghanistan before it combined, but as of writing is now the most financially successful American war film ever made. More complicated than many gave it credit for American Sniper marks a shift in how the 'War on Terror' has come to be remembered and creates a very different vision of the conflict compared to films like Battle for Haditha (2007) and Redacted (2007). It is arguably part of a conscious effort to reframe the events of the Iraq War and reclaim the conflict in the national imaginary in a very similar way to the process in which Hollywood engaged with the Vietnam War in films like The Deer Hunter (1978), Platoon (1986) and more recently We Were Soldiers (2002). The cumulative effect of these portrayals, both of the Vietnam War and the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, is the depiction of the American soldier as the primary victim of their respective conflicts, not, as one might expect, the Vietnamese, Iraqis and Afghanistanis who died and were wounded in their hundreds and thousands, if not millions.

Keywords:   American Sniper, War film, combat, Iraq War, Hollywood

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