Clint Eastwood's Legacy of Hunters: 'American Sniper'

December 24, 2014 8:15 AM

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“You got him.” Wayne Kyle (Ben Reed) is proud of his young son Chris (Cole Konis), who looks briefly astonished that he’s shot the deer in his gun sight. As Chris runs to look at the body, his father watches as the boy bounds into the tall-grass distance. It’s an image you might see in any number of coming of age stories, a father and son bonding over a lesson in hunting. Here, however, the next frame might be unexpected, a close shot of the carcass that pans up and over to show Chris’ approach, still bounding, dropping his gun as his father appears a small, distinct shadow behind him.

For a moment, you might imagine American Sniper is underlining the result of the hunt, the dead object so large and dark. But the scene shifts again, as Wayne instructs his son, “You don’t ever leave your rifle in the dirt,” then praises his boy, “You’ve got a gift.” Chris has absorbed this lesson a...

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