I finally saw American Sniper last night.
I now know why Michael Moore hates it.
American Sniper wasn’t a war movie. It was a movie about what war does to a man, and that’s much harder for a porcine blowhard to easily dismiss.
The Chris Kyle portrayed by Bradley Cooper in American Sniper was a ranch hand and rodeo cowboy stumbling through life. He became a reluctant savior as a Navy SEAL sniper in four tours of duty in Iraq. As the movie developed and Kyle went to war, you saw him buried under self-imposed responsibility, fighting to retain his humanity. The man we saw portrayed in the film was trapped between being “the Legend” others needed him to be, and Everyman that he was in his heart.
What angers the anti-war, anti-military left is that director Clint Eastwood and actor Bradley Cooper presented us with an extremely complex character. Kyle was a loving husband, and at times a distant husband. He was a doting father, and a man trapped half a world away while his children were in his arms. He was a steely-eyed hunter of men and a human being, haunted by what he was forced to do to save lives. He was devil to some, an angel to others, and for all his toughness, was also deeply affected by the things he’d seen and done.
The Chris Kyle of American Sniper isn’t a shallow Hollywood action hero easily discounted by even shallower polemicists. He didn’t have cheesy catch phrases, and he wasn’t invincible. Cooper’s Kyle was a man who rose to the occasion time and time again no matter what obstacles were put in his way. Though he ended up losing his life, he never surrendered his humanity.
So much of the criticism of the film seems to revolve around the decisions that Kyle had to make as a sniper providing overwatch to Marines in Fallujah, Ramadi, and other urban battlefields. These critics are missing the point of the movie entirely.
The “shoot/don’t shoot”decisions he makes in the film are surprisingly important to some critics of the film. Those who would seek to portray him as a monster for some of the decisions Kyle had to make only expose how immature and ill-equipped they are to handle difficult decisions.
Every bullet Kyle fired from his .300 Winchester Magnum was to save the lives of American Marines, soldiers, and SEALs. Each kill made perfectly logical sense, and while Kyle clearly states that he wouldn’t change them and that he doesn’t regret firing these shots, he was also quite clearly affected by them.
In American Sniper, you see a man shaped by war, whose toughest fight was to leave the war behind and try to fully return home to be the husband and father that he wanted to be.
If you haven’t seen it, I recommend that you do. I have no idea of whether or not American Sniper is an accurate depiction of Chris Kyle’s life, but it certainly seems to be an accurate depiction of many of the common struggles of every warrior who is fighting both a war on the outside, and a more deadly and desperate war within.