Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Film review: American Sniper

If you haven’t seen American Sniper, then you must be living under a rock. This movie got the Academy Award for best film of the year and its star, Bradley Cooper, got an Oscar nomination for best actor.

I get the controversy surrounding the movie. Michael Moore slammed its “jingoistic portrayal of snipers as heroes.” But then, I have yet to see one of Michael Moore’s documentaries all the way to the finish. Midway, I just lose interest.

Directed by Clint Eastwood, American Sniper was a box office hit, reaching $105 million on its opening weekend alone. It’s the story of Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper,  a U.S. Navy SEAL sniper who was so effective that an $80,000 award was placed on his head.

Kyle did four tours of duty in Iraq. His buddies nicknamed him “Legend” and he is viewed as the best sniper in US military history. The Pentagon confirmed Kyle got 160 kills, but his SEAL teammates believe it is double that. 

 Kyle won two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor in his four tours of Iraq. He survived six explosive attacks, was shot three times, lived through two helicopter crashes and innumerable surgeries. However, you won’t see that in the movie. You will see that his enemies called him the devil.

What the movie focuses on is his war duty, and the stress it puts on his family. A conversation with a doctor explains the thinking that makes him good at what he does, as follows:

Navy Doctor: Would you be surprised if I told you that Navy has credited you with... over 160 kills? Do you ever think that... you might have seen things or... done some things over there that you wish you hadn't?

Chris Kyle: Oh, that's not me. No.

Navy Doctor: What's not you?

Chris Kyle: I was just protecting my guys, they were trying to kill... our soldiers and I... I'm willing to meet my Creator and answer for every shot that I took.

Chris Kyle: The thing that... haunts me are all the guys that I couldn't save.

This is the sort of thing that some liberals might have issues with. But I personally recall a time I spoke to a Vietnam veteran. I asked him what kept him going in the war. He replied, “It’s all the other men in your team. It’s the guy who stands beside you.” 

Another issue that came to rise by critics is what historian Richard Hofstadter calls “America’s Gun Culture”, which he dates to the first settlers in the late 1600s in US history. From then, guns passed through generations within a family and are a part of many American family traditions. a gun represents protection, sport and food. Many Americans eat their kill. Kyle’s sniper skills, in fact, originated from his being a hunter.

American Sniper is a thrilling, fast-paced movie that is definitely worth your time and money. Bradley Cooper did an excellent job and Clint Eastwood’s direction provided enough old school to bring those core traditional values up front. 

Here's a link if you want to buy a copy of the movie:

Here's the official trailer: