AMERICAN SNIPER is not only shattering the January box office record but it is causing a stir. The film, based on the 2012 best-selling memoir of the same name by Navy Seal Chris Kyle, tells the story of his four tours in Iraq and how the war affected not only himself but his family as well. Like so many other war dramas the film showed a brutal warrior but what sets it apart from others are the moments when he is a gentle husband and father. A side of a soldier we don’t often get to see in films. Like LONE SURVIVOR, ZERO DARK THIRTY, BLACK HAWK DOWN and countless others the story recounts the battlegrounds of war, yet somehow AMERICAN SNIPER has ignited backlash unlike any film that has come before it.
Masterfully directed by Clint Eastwood, AMERICAN SNIPER is grounded, gritty, gripping and powerful. During the war scenes you feel like you are right there in the midst of the action holding your breath realizing that life and death rely mostly on split second decisions. The intensity is magnified by the way Eastwood uses the scope on Kyle’s gun to show the viewer the kills as they are made showing the weight of the moment as it is happening. Bradley Cooper gives the performance of his career bringing Chris Kyle to life showing a warrior who has only one mission, to protect not just our country but the lives of every American soldier he fights beside. You begin to see the toll the war takes on Kyle each time he is sent back home to his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and children. You can feel his internal struggle between being a husband and father at home and his need to be doing what he feels he is made to do on the battlefield.
It is few and far between that a film is as good as a memoir and AMERICAN SNIPER goes down as one of the greats. It stays true to the story and remains raw rather than glazing it over Hollywood style. Yet somehow there is a debate that the film is somehow glorifying war and killing and has a political agenda rather than seeing it for what it is, the story of an American hero. Filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted:
“My uncle killed by sniper in WW2. We were taught snipers were cowards. Will shoot u in the back. Snipers aren’t heroes. And invaders r worse.”
He even went as far as comparing American snipers at war to the sniper that killed Martin Luther King Jr. Even though he claims his statements had nothing to do with the film his sentiment was clear. Moore wasn’t the only on who had an opinion, Hollywood star Seth Rogen sounded like he was comparing the film to Nazi propaganda tweeting:
“American Sniper kind of reminds me of the movie that’s showing in the third act of Inglorious Basterds.”
He later explained it was all a misunderstanding saying,
“I just said something “kinda reminded” me of something else. I actually liked American Sniper. It just reminded me of the Tarantino scene. But if you were having a slow news day, you’re welcome for me giving you the opportunity to blow something completely out of proportion.”
Coming from the man who just made a movie about murdering the leader of North Korea that Sony canceled the theatrical release of due to threats and cyber-hacking, one would hope he would respect the men and women who are putting their lives on the line to allow us to live in a country where we have the freedom to make such movies even if they are extremely distasteful.
Kyle seemed to be a real mans man who always wanted to be a cowboy. He didn’t worry about being politically correct and he didn’t care what people thought of him. He stayed true to who he was and kept his sense of humor in tact even in the toughest situations. His loyalty and dedication to God, Country and Family were unwavering. He was the deadliest sniper in U.S. history having 160 confirmed kills by the Pentagon’s count, but by his own count and those of his fellow SEALS the number was close to twice that. He served four tours in Iraq, survived six IED attacks, three gunshot wounds, two helicopter crashes and countless surgeries. He was known as The Legend by those he fought beside and al-Shaitan, “the devil” by his enemies. He thrived in moments of unimaginable pressure. There was a $20,000.00 bounty set on him during his time in Iraq that was said to at one point gone up to $80,000.00 to which Kyle joked his wife might have just taken. When he returned home at the end of his service he struggled with adjusting to the world where he was no longer a sniper but instead a father, wife and Christian. He struggled with knowing he was more than able to be back overseas saving lives the best way he knew how but knew that his family needed him, so he turned to saving soldiers in a different way by helping them make the adjustment back into life after war. He often took other vets to the gun range enjoying being around “the boys” and helping them blow off steam. Of all the deadly situations Chris Kyle was in, it was a trip to the range with a marine veteran that would take his life.
There was a moment in his book where he talks about coming home and being enraged that what was going on in Iraq wasn’t on TV and that people were going on with their lives as if nothing was happening. I felt that same anger walking out of the movie theatre hearing people say that they weren’t aware that AMERICAN SNIPER was a true story, but sadly until the movie was announced I too was unaware of who Chris Kyle was. We know where celebrities are having dinner but we don’t know real American heroes. AMERICAN SNIPER doesn’t glorify war or killings it tells the story of a true American hero, a man who put his life on the line for our country and for his fellow soldiers, a man who continued to serve and save even after he left the Navy. It seems ignorant to look at it otherwise. We should be proud of the men and women who keep us safe, who keep the terrorists from coming into our backyards. I am in no way pro war and would love to live in a world where our troops were all home safe but I also have the utmost respect for the men and women who are willing to risk their lives to protect mine. We should want to share their stories and remember each and every one of them. Chris Kyle like Marcus Luttrell, Louis Zamperini and countless others are heroes and deserve to be remembered and honored. Kyle once told a reporter “If you hate the war, that’s fine, but you should still support the troops. They don’t get to pick where they’re deployed. They just gave the American people a blank check for anything up to and including the value of their lives, and the least everyone else can do is be thankful. Buy them dinner. Mow their yard. Bake them cookies.”