Since American Sniper is making money hand over fist, generating much comment, and giving the talking heads fodder for arguing their political views, we went to see what all the brouhaha is about. I am not rich or famous, so my opinion won’t show up on MSN or make the Evening News, but here is my take on this movie.
It is a war movie; one that seems to me to be a graphic, realistic look at the frustration, futility, and unfairness of war, the defeats and victories of battle, as well as the courage, mental and physical strength, and sacrifice it takes to be a soldier. I didn’t see it as anti- or pro- war, but one man’s story told through battle. I am not a scholar on the life and psyche of Chris Kyle and whether he was correctly or incorrectly depicted in the movie, but it is one heck of a story. I understand that Chris’s real-life wife approved of the movie, and since she had a first person view of events, this surely gives credibility to what we watch on the screen. Bradley Cooper gives a compelling performance as her husband who earns the title of The Legend.
I don’t like war. I am not defending or criticizing the war depicted in this movie. I do think the human life given on both sides of a war is a terrible price to pay for politics. Unfortunately, war has been a staple of the human condition since time began, and I’m afraid, like it or not, it is here to stay. Apparently it is the nature of the grizzly side of the human beast. And the rest of that story is that if fight we must, I want to be on the winning side. And snipers exist to help one side win.
As to the opinion that a sniper is a coward, or that this sniper was a coward, well, soldiers kill the enemy. That’s their job. A sniper is a soldier with a specialized skill that is for the purpose of protecting his fellow comrades in arms. As to the idea that a sniper takes advantage by shooting an unsuspecting victim, consider that a sniper is basically a hunter; that this is also what hunters of animals do. My father was a hunter who learned to hunt as a child to help his father keep food on the family table. He certainly wasn’t a coward. But taking down unsuspecting victims, be they wild animals or human animals, is sometimes an unfortunate necessity. Reality bites.
American Sniper is intense, violent, riveting- all those clichéd adjectives reviewers use to describe a harsh movie like this. But it is also poignant, sad, bittersweet, human. I don’t think it is giving anything away to tell you that the story ends with the announcement that Chris Kyle, in tragically ironic fashion, died by the hand of a veteran who suffered from PTSD while Chris was trying to help him deal with his issues, and the end of the movie is a montage of actual footage of Chris’s funeral procession and burial accompanied with very soulful, heartfelt music. Not a person leaves; no one makes a sound. Then as the music fades out to silence and the funeral footage is over, still in silence, the credits roll on a black screen, printed in white, and for a long time, no one moves and no one talks.
Gut-wrenching. We walked out wiping the tears away. I’m sure detractors will scoff and accuse the filmmakers of manipulating the audience with this emotional ending. Well, movie makers attempt to do just that in some form or fashion with any movie they make to reach their audience; that’s their job. In my mind, it was, really, the only way to end it, and was an appropriate thank you to this particular man and a show of respect for all veterans who serve and have served our country.
Godspeed to all of them.