Considering how American Sniper enjoyed a record-breaking release, plenty of our members most likely saw the film this weekend, or you plan to see it soon. As with all of our blog posts, we’re always seeking to hear your opinions and read your comments. Our members are a diverse and vibrant group, and your comments and feedback keeps our site going. Please read my thoughts here, and kindly contribute your own in the comments section below.
One of the main themes of American Sniper is that people back home don’t understand war. Only warfighters understand it, and this movie reminded me of that. We can and should express our admiration for the service that our military performs, and the sacrifices they and their families make, but we will never truly understand what it is they go through. In the film, Chris Kyle’s disillusionment with the public’s apathy grows with each tour he returns from, and he was not wrong to feel that way. There is a fundamental lack of understanding that permeates every level of our culture, from ordinary civilians here at home, to the highest levels of government and the people who so whimsically dispatch men and women to war in volatile places.
Chris Kyle understood war’s cost as much as he understood its mechanics. This film gives you the portrait of a man who loved his country and fought for it when he was ordered to. Director Clint Eastwood, well known as a conservative supporter and voice, wisely disposes of political statements in his film, completely avoiding the subject about whether the war in Iraq was a good idea or not. The war simply happened, and Kyle waged it. And he was particularly skilled at it, racking up a confirmed 160 enemy kills and directly saving American service members from death or injury. However, this film positions Chris Kyle as a national hero because he saved American lives, not because he took Iraqi ones.
There have been many examinations of Chris Kyle’s life, ideology, and mythos leading up to and following the release of this movie. Eastwood’s film excludes these examinations, instead opting for a one-sided narrative that adheres fiercely to Kyle’s job as a sniper. This is one of the movie’s greatest strengths. It does not show you the celebrity Chris Kyle, it shows you the US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, and then the credits roll.
What mattered to Chris Kyle, at least in this movie, was the completion of the mission and the defense of his brothers. Again, I cannot claim to fully understand this mission because I am so incredibly removed from it. Having two brothers who serve in the Navy, and several friends who’ve served multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, I can consider myself closer than some to understanding it, but I’m still miles away from true comprehension. This film confidently assumes that the majority of its audience won’t understand either, opting for a tightly edited story that feels almost educational, giving you Chris Kyle’s exclusive perspective, focusing on the mission, the bond between soldiers and the toll war takes on them and their families.
It’s brutal, dark, and at times exhilarating, and it’s a perspective that shook me to the core and led me to these thoughts and questions. Does the movie dramatize and venerate Chris Kyle? Yes, it does. Does it dehumanize the enemy, perhaps in a slightly overdramatic way that depicts their destruction? Yes, it does. Does it ignore the “myth” of Chris Kyle and criticism leveled at him? Yes, it does.
But did Chris Kyle defend his fellow service members in combat? Was he selected by top brass for special, dangerous missions to take out high-value targets and thus save American lives? Did he inspire the men he led? Was he a man deserving of a full honors funeral at AT&T Stadium and a procession down a Texas highway lined by thousands of waving American flags?
You’re damn right he was.