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American Bullshit

Before I piss people off about my thoughts on American Sniper, let me first say that I have nothing but the highest respect for the men and women in our military. These are brave individuals who put their lives on the line so that that we may enjoy the freedoms that we take for granted every single day. This review is not meant as an attack against those who have volunteered to put themselves in harm's way; rather, my point is to discuss my problems with the characterization of one Chris Kyle, how the filmmakers white washed most of his full self to sell this notion that he was an honorable, earnest, all-American kind of guy, and how it sells a pro-war message about a conflict that was absolutely unnecessary for the United States to engage in.


Also, I do want to point out that Sniper has a fantastic performance by Bradley Cooper as Kyle. He gets the drawl, the mannerisms, the look and the attitude down to the letter. There's a fantastic opening sequence in which he's forced into an early, horrific decision about whether or not to kill a woman and her child who is carrying an IED. It's a tense moment partly because of the uncertainty Cooper has about his choice, and partly because command has given him the call to make that decision himself. And there are great sequences in which Kyle returns home from his tour of duty to his wife Taya (played by Sienna Miller) and his young kids, only to face difficulty leaving the battlefield behind him. The stories of soldiers returning home from war is a fascinating subject, and one that isn't given then attention it deserves on film, and Eastwood, along with first time screenwriter Jason Hall, do paint a haunting picture of how difficult it was for Kyle return to some form of normalcy, given what he was ordered to do and the things he had seen. This would have been a compelling picture if we had seen more of Kyle trying to distance himself from the war, with flashbacks of him doing his combined four tours in Iraq, instead of Eastwood trying to rewrite history.

And that's where the problems with the film come in: the way Clint subtly tries to link the terrorist attacks in 1998 at a U.S. Embassy to the devastating attacks in New York City & Washington D.C. on September 11th. as both reason for Kyle to serve in the military and to justify our misguided adventure in Iraq. Hearing our protagonist casually coin the people we're invading as "savages" (Editor's note: that was personal gripe on my part. I had known a Navy SEAL that also employed me to work for his at-home business thought my Senior year in high school, and I had, on more than one occasion, heard him use the term "savages" and other ugly terms to describe the people were were fighting and a few of the customers as well). Probably the worst part about Sniper is how Eastwood whitewashes much of Kyle himself and tries to idolize him as this good ol' boy, when even his autobiographical novel (on which this film is based on) says almost the complete opposite.

The film paints the notion that Kyle was conflicted about killing all those people. Not true.




Here's Kyle's thoughts on Iraqis. At least Eastwood got this part right.




How Chris Kyle spent his free-time. On Christmas, no less. Charming.




And here's Chris bragging about a "twofer".




Chris Kyle wasn't a person to idolize, nor was he deserving of how the filmmakers made him into a martyr. At best, he was disturbed man suffering from serious PTSD. At worst, the man was a near-psychopath with a sniper rifle. And Clint Eastwood overlooked that crucial part of Kyle's story completely in order to forge a war film that rewrites the history on why we were taken into war, and idolizes a remorseless murderer into a saint. Excuse me if I dislike nearly everything American Sniper stands for.

Comments

  1. I read his book, saw most of his interviews, and heard other soldiers talk about him- Kyle was that one soldier that did whatever he wanted because the brass liked him more than his CO, and the only reason his CO didn't get a DD + Time for knocking his ass out was Kyle finished his tour before it hit "worth it!" point. According to some soldiers, half a day before, as in if he left on the next flight, that would have been it.

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