‘American Sniper’: Breaking $105 Million on opening weekend and being a sheepdog

Is American Sniper the best Clint Eastwood film he’s ever done? Probably. Look, I’m a huge fan of Clint Eastwood so it would be hard for him to do wrong in my eyes. I knew he’d do a great job with the Chris Kyle story of the deadliest sniper in US history. I had the entire movie laid out in my mind before I even saw it, and knew it would be great. I know Eastwood’s directorial style so well that nothing really surprised me except that he’s currently 84 years old and can still make such vigorous movies of immense complexity appear so simple. He’s a jazz musician and a very wise old man who still has the heart of a 35-year-old lumberjack which was one of his odd jobs way back in the day before his acting career took off. He’s a man’s man and most women would succumb to his seductions even in his advanced years—and he knows it. He knows that hunger from women for real men and most of his movies embody that spirit in some regard—which is why women also like his movies. He appreciates that masculine quality in other men and knows precisely how to capture it on-screen. He did it marvelously in Heartbreak Ridge, Grand Torino, White Hunter Black Heart, even in Million Dollar Baby where the protagonist was a female. Eastwood has a way of getting to the primal raw nature of what it means to be a living human being from a free country.  I probably have watched Eastwood over the years as closely as Bradley Cooper watched actual footage of Chris Kyle to portray him in this fantastic movie so accurately. Yet even so there were parts of the movie where you just forget to breathe because it was so spectacularly good. I think Clint Eastwood and only he could have made this movie. It was essentially an update of the very first Dirty Harry movie played out against the Iraq war—at least in how Eastwood approached the subject. It was raw, primal, honest, sentimental, and gloriously American in spirit.

American Sniper made $105 million dollars over the Martin Luther King Day holiday which far exceeded the box office predictions—by like $60 million. It broke every box office record there was for a January movie release, and even some in every other release month—even the Mel Gibson epic, The Passion, which seemed outrageously high at $83 million. I wasn’t going to see the picture until the buzz died off a bit—because I knew what to expect. But, when I read the box office take in USA Today Sunday morning that the film was trucking quickly by the $90 million dollar mark and not slowing down I knew something phenomenal was happening. Clint Eastwood had been tapping on the glass of a uniquely American concept for a movie for nearly five decades and he had finally struck gold with American Sniper. Eastwood didn’t star in the film at all, but unquestionably, he was there in the stellar performance behind Bradley Cooper and Chris Kyle himself. As Kyle whizzed in and out of bullets on the screen and paraded down Iraqi streets with his “Punishers” bearing the emblem of the popular character from graphic novel fame—Eastwood had hit the tap-root of American consciousness and had placed it on the screen for one of the first times in cinematic history. He captured and answered on the silver screen the debate of our day—should America have been in Iraq, what makes Americans free, and what does it mean to be a good person, father, husband, brother, friend and patriot? American Sniper was a movie that a majority of the people in the United States wanted to see, and needed to see through many years of guilt and embarrassment by politicians who have squandered away the pride of our nation. Eastwood captured that spirit in a bottle through the honesty of Chris Kyle, and unleashed it like a cyclone across American movie screens with the pent-up energy of a Tasmanian Devil.

It had been a long time since I had seen a movie sell out at the theater. The last time that I can recall was the 1997 film Titanic. So my wife and I planned to see the American Sniper during the playoff games late on Sunday January 18, 2015 figuring that it would be easier to get seats in our Cincinnati movie theater during that time frame. But just to be safe we arrived three hours early and discovered that the 3:30 shows were almost sold out upon our arrival. So we snagged our tickets, did some shopping to fill the hours from then until the movie began, and braced for an onslaught of movie goers lining up as early as 2:30 to be let in to see the film which showed an hour later. It only took about 20 minutes once they started seating to fill up the giant Showcase Cinema Theater from back to front with no spaces in between. I had not seen such a thing in years. American Sniper was having its “Chick-fil-A” moment—middle America was voting against Hollywood with a ticket for the Eastwood product—and they were doing it to a consensus of stunned industry insiders who were bewildered by the epic show of support for an R-rated war movie filled with profanity and drama. This wasn’t The Avengers or Transformers where children helped make up the audience. This was a strictly adult crowd showing up stone faced to support a rare piece of Americana placed before them by a legendary director depicting a real-life American hero.


I will likely give a more formal review after thinking about it for a few days—because there is a lot to cover. But for this examination, understanding the massive show of support for American Sniper is the key subject. What was it about the film that had people showing up in such an unpredictably profound way? Well, during the movie I thought a lot about what Liam Neeson said after his release of last week’s hit movie, Taken 3, where he stated after the terrorist killings in Paris:

“First off, my thoughts and prayers and my heart are with the deceased, and certainly with all of France, yesterday. I’ve got a lot of dear friends in Paris. There’s too many fucking guns out there. Especially in America. I think the population is like, 320 million? There’s over 300 million guns. Privately owned, in America. I think it’s a fucking disgrace. Every week now we’re picking up a newspaper and seeing, ‘Yet another few kids have been killed in schools.'”


Then I watched Chris Kyle and the background he came from navigating house to house searches in Iraq and dealing which what was termed as sheer evil in the movie, and comparing the conditions of Iraq to those in America. Then it became quite clear why so many people showed up to support American Sniper. What made those barbarians in Iraq evil was that they allowed dictators to breed in their culture who then sought to spread that desire to the distant shores of America. Kyle said it in the movie, “You don’t want these people in San Diego do you?” Evil had to be fought on their soil and only there so that through passivity they didn’t end up in our back yard—as they have been doing more often under President Obama’s presidency. Terrorist cells were emboldened to attack New York under the lackadaisical watch of President Clinton, another Obama type liberal. It was eight years of 90s liberalism that gave those terrorists courage as President Bush was in his first year of office when 9/11 occurred. So a failure to bring in the kind of people who Chris Kyle represented to meet that evil far away from home to keep the fight away from the shopping malls, businesses, and industry flourishing under capitalism did not happen as it should have in the late 90s. Leaving the Iraqi people alone didn’t make them less evil. What made them evil was that they wished to impose their view of the world and understanding upon others through force which is the best definition of evil that there is. America wasn’t trying to impose its world view—it tries to free people from their oppressors. Liberals thought the war in Iraq was about oil, but it wasn’t. America has its own oil and the threat of using it is what is currently driving the prices down for our transportation costs. Iraq was always about confronting evil which America helped put in power—and had to rectify morally. For a society, an individual, or a political party to be evil, it must trample on the rights of individual thought and action to achieve its goal. People like Chris Kyle were raised to know the difference between good and evil—so he couldn’t turn away from it when he saw it. He felt compelled to kick evil’s ass wherever it was out of a natural inclination given to him by his upbringing. There are many people just like him being born and raised right now who think the same. Chris Kyle is a uniquely American type of man. You wouldn’t find him in Ukraine, or France, or anywhere in China because those cultures do not make people like him. He was born and made in America to recognize evil for what it is—and to eliminate it.

America is the freest place on earth. There is evil trying to embed itself in virtually every institution—but with free speech, and the right to bear arms, it is impossible for institutions to gain the kind of traction seen in Iraq, Iran, or China over their populations. The people in America simply won’t put up with it. Currently Americans put up with a lot, they put up with a terrible president in Obama, they put up with the entire leftist political platform points, and they put up with mismanagement of government from our schools all the way up to the highest levels of congress. But they have a breaking point and to ease their minds they have their gun cabinets in their homes to remind them if all hell breaks loose, that they are still in control. It is within that 300 million gun culture that families make heroic people like Chris Kyle. It wasn’t the military that made the man great. They simply refined the kind of man who Kyle already was. It was a father who told him there were three types of people in the world – the sheep, the wolves who prey on them, and the sheepdogs who protect the herd. His father further said, “and we aren’t raising any sheep, and we aren’t raising any wolves. Do you understand boy?”

America is the sheepdog to the rest of the world struggling to climb from under centuries of oppression. In American Sniper there isn’t one apology to the fact, which was so refreshing for the first time in a modern war movie. In the great war films of the past like the Deer Hunter, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, and Saving Private Ryan there is always a bit of guilt associated with the actions of American troops—a questioning of whether or not they had a right to be involved in a far away land or not. In American Sniper there is no such guilt—there is only a resounding YES! Kyle as portrayed in the film signs up for four tours in Iraq against the wishes of his family because he felt it was his job to kill Mustafa, the Olympic sharp shooter working with the Al Qaeda forces. Al Qaeda had put an $180,000 bounty on Kyle’s head which Mustafa intended to collect. The entire film was essentially a cat and mouse game between those two rivals. Kyle felt he could not leave the battlefield with someone as dangerous as Mustafa on it killing American troops. It was impossible for his wife to understand at the time, but it was something Kyle as a man had to do, just as Dirty Harry Callahan had to hunt down and kill Scorpio in the 1971 cop drama. It was the same masculine necessity that uniquely only Americans seem to understand. And the reason they understand it is because they too have vaults of guns in their bedrooms, and can taste the kind of freedom that gives such ideas places to grow. People certainly don’t think that way in Ireland, England, France, or even Spain. They certainly don’t think that way in China, Russia, or anywhere in Malaysia, India, or even Australia. They only think that way in America because the gun culture gives liberty a place to sink roots and contemplate the effects of evil.

Most of the world suffers from indecision and political derision because they don’t have the ability to defend themselves from evil. They, like the Iraqi people, are left to always barter with evil to keep their loved ones from being killed or maimed. They don’t have the luxury to fight back against evil if the circumstances mandate it. For people like Chris Kyle, he learned how to spot evil, and stop it in its tracks from his family heritage driven in America by a gun culture. That is the reason that Chris Kyle was in Iraq, and why his “Punishers” were there to inflict justice upon evil as defined by common sense.

Eastwood with his big shoulders and typical brashness knew exactly what he was doing when he shot American Sniper. He knew the faces of most of the Hollywood elite would melt off when he showed the Iraqi people as savages who deserved to have their asses kicked if they were aligned with Al Qaeda. He knew that the progressive usurpers currently within American culture from the academic high towers of snobby scrutiny would decry him and his film to the end of the earth. But Eastwood like Chris Kyle was willing to weave through the bullets to “punish evil” as it is not only in Iraq, but in our own missteps stateside. Eastwood is shooting again not as the Dirty Harry character, but as one of the finest directors in cinema history and this time his targets are soothsayers like Seth Rogan, Michael Moore, and all the rest of the progressive despots who want to pave the flyover states with six feet of asphalt to bury the gun culture of America forever and the freedoms that come with it. To support Eastwood in this quest America showed up and surprised everyone with a show of force that has evil quivering in its boots right now from Hollywood mansion to mansion wondering what on earth they are going to do about the 84-year-old man who can out shoot them, out-wit them, and out-work them in every phase. Not even blockbuster film directors like James Cameron will be able to criticize the fabulous work of Eastwood or his newly found box office prowess. Because American Sniper is a statement from Eastwood to the future of his country—his movie will go down as one of the greatest war movies of all time. But more than that, it will be the defining film that articulates to the present and future generations what it means to be an American. We are the sheepdogs of the world. The sheep may not appreciate it all the time and the wolves certainly hate us, but we are what we are, and we have the guns to do the job because of capitalism. Pure and simple. American Sniper is made for the sheepdogs and by the box office numbers there are a lot of them hidden in the woodworks—and have always been there. They were just ignored by Hollywood as it was hell-bent on social change and reform. American Sniper has exposed those home-grown insurgents for the intentions they have always had.

American Sniper is like a nice shower after several days of riding in the hard desert. It felt good and clean to see such wonderful articulation of values which are uniquely American—without an ounce of apology. If you’ve seen it, go see it again. If you haven’t yet, what’s stopping you!

Rich Hoffman

Visit Cliffhanger Research and Development

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