A reverent silence was felt as viewers filed out of the theater after watching American Sniper. This awe-inspiring film by Clint Eastwood realistically presents the Afghan and Iraqi wars as U.S. Marines and SEALS root out terrorist insurgents. This movie also presents the clash between the necessity of war and the terror and pain it brings to those involved.
Eastwood presents the Iraqi/Afghan conflict as through the sights of a rifle. It is focused almost completely on the life of Chris Kyle. Other soldiers are merely peripheral additions to the narrative and Eastwood certainly does not try to engage with the insurgents viewpoint. American Sniper is simply the story of a barrel chested, Texan American hero. It does not explore the motivations or feelings of other parties nor does it seek to make a definitive point; it merely presents the story in a realistic way and leaves the viewer to determine the merits/demerits of war.
Bradley Cooper gives a stunning performance as he embodies Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, an American hero and one of the deadliest snipers in American history. After Kyle’s first tour his life was forever changed. Peering through the sights of a sniper rifle Kyle pulls the trigger on hundreds of Al-Qaeda insurgents and once, when it was necessary, a woman and child. Each time he pulls the trigger he saves his friends’ lives, and saving American soldiers quickly becomes Kyle’s’ mission and life purpose.
While at home, Kyle is restless as visions of combat continually run through his head. He feels an urgent need to be back on duty saving soldiers. Kyle will be looking at the television or his wife but really seeing explosions and soldiers in combat. This detachment makes Kyle almost completely incapable of interacting with his family and friends while at home. However, while on tour he is focused, engaged and fully present.
After 1000 days of grueling combat, Kyle is released on permanent leave and returns to his family. At home he continues to struggle with guilt created by a feeling that he is deserting his fellow soldiers. Kyle resolves this inner need to serve when he begins to help veterans adjust to civilian life. While serving these men Chris is able to lead a productive, vibrant civilian life. The movie ends on a tragic note which compels audiences to consider the impact of war on the minds and bodies of those who engage in it as well as the necessity of it.
This movie raises valuable discussions on the meaning and impact of war. It is not explicitly for or against war but presents it in a realistic light. American Sniper also reminds American civilians of the extreme sacrifices that our military personnel make to maintain our freedom and the long lasting negative effects of war. All too often we forget the pain and suffering that our veterans and current military personnel go through to protect us. Go see American Sniper; you will be imbued with a new understanding of the horrors of war and a renewed sense of gratitude for those who serve us in the military.
Read Ben Swakopf's response to this article here.