“American Sniper” as Western

Alex Young at Salon.com on “American Sniper” as a revisionist western (click on excerpt to go to full article):

In a recent interview with Terry Gross, Bradley Cooper described how he and screenwriter Jason Hall initially envisioned “American Sniper” as a revisionist western. “The idea was to have a construct of a western, but play with it a bit in the way that ‘Unforgiven’ did, you know?…I like that idea of playing with these archetypes.” But, Cooper goes on to say, after Chris Kyle was murdered, Hall decided that Kyle’s death demanded that he tell a more authentic story, a story more focused on the relationship between Kyle and his wife, Taya, and one that would narrate Kyle’s “experience going four tours and the schizophrenic nature, almost, of going from home to war.”

Ironically, what Cooper described as a complete transformation in the film’s framing ended up deepening the film’s ties to the western genre.  Like so many westerns, “American Sniper” revolves around the tensions between a hypermasculine hero, who only feels at home on the frontier of “civilization and savagery,” and a heroine who embodies domesticity.  Like so many westerns, it has been defended and attacked on the basis of the authenticity (or lack thereof) of its representations of a distant “frontier.”


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