Again, we celebrate how well we kill people, while being killed in the process.
Film Review © 2015 by Trip Reynolds
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Screenplay by Jason Hall, based on the book by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen, and James Defelice. Executive produced by Bruce Berman, Jason Hall, Sheroum Kim, and Tim Moore. Produced by Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Andrew Lazar, Robert Lorenz, and Peter Morgan. Line produced by Zakaria Alaoui.
Starring: Bradley Cooper (as Chris Kyle), Kyle Gallner (as Goat-Winston), Cole Konis (as young, Chris Kyle), Ben Reed (as Wayne Kyle), Elise Robertson (as Debbie Kyle), Luke Suhshine (as young Jeff Kyle), Troy Vincent (as Pastor), Brandon Salgado Telis (as Bully), Keir O'Donnell (as Jeff Kyle), Marnette Patterson (as Sarah), Jason Hall (as cowboy), Billy Miller (as navy Recruiter), Leonard Roberts (Instructor Roller), and a host of others.
As with previous A-list biographical films about U.S. military heroes (Audie Murphy, Sergeant York - see chart below), "American Sniper" is no different (except the lifespan for heroes continues to diminish). Our hero has a relatively uninspiring orgin growing-up as a regular-Joe. Then, our regular-Joe eventually finds himself in the military and he discovers his real talent is to kill people, a bunch of people. After all, it's call "war," and war is about killing people and capturing turf. Oh, for sure, our war hero has a family back home (any combination of stereotypical mother, sisters, brothers, wife, children, etc.), so there's a humanity that embeds the character of our war hero, but that's never as important as the procedural-based action and the efficiency of our war hero's killing ability. We want to see him excel at killing the enemy. It's us versus them, and it's the onging practice of the U.S. and every testosterone-lead-and/or-manipulated nation to consistently promote its prowess in war. As consistently used by the industrial military complex, propaganda has always been an effective deterrent to avoid conflict from other nations; unfortunately propaganda films are not so effective against despots (Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin, etc.) and para-military extremist groups (Isis, al-Qaeda, etc.).
"American Sniper" is about Chris Kyle, a U.S. Navy SEAL, who found himself in Iraq and he became the absolutely best individual U.S. killing machine while there. The film clearly shows Kyle's killing prowess, which is to be expected for this stereotypical A-list biographical film. The direction by Clint Eastwood is, as expected, excellent, as are all production values, sound, special effects, and especially sharp editing by Joel Cox and Gary Roach for 132 briskly paced minutes. Likewise, Bradley Cooper's subdued but intense performance as Chris Kyle makes Kyle's life interesting and the film is appropriately centered to do so. However, given how Kyle actually died, the script should have conveyed more of Kyle's actual personality, and especially how and what he was actually thinking while killing. As Kyle stated (page 194) in his 2012 autobiography, "American Sniper," Kyle literally didn't give a fuck:
"I never really believed the Iraquis would turn the country into a truly functioning democracy, but I thought at one point that there was a chance. I don't know that I believe that now. It's a pretty corrupt place.
But I didn't risk my life to bring democracy to Iraq. I risked my life for my buddies, to protect my friends and fellow countrymen. I went to war for my country, not Iraq. My country sent me out there so that bullshit wouldn't make its way back to our shores.
I never once fought for the Iraqis. I could give a flying fuck about them."
In his own words, Kyle didn't a fuck. In his book and as protrayed in the film by Bradley Cooper, Kyle was very matter-of-fact, no-nonsense about his job to kill the enemy, and yes, he clearly excelled at his job. After sitting for 132 minutes the film ended without telling us the "real story" that ultimately ended Chris Kyle's life. Specifically, what the hell was Kyle thinking when on February 2, 2013 he and his friend Chad Littlefield took a 25-year-old U.S. Marine Corps veteran, Eddie Ray Routh, who had been in and out of mental hospitals for at least two years and had been diagnosed with schizophrenia, to a gun range in an effort to help him with his post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Routh killed both Kyle and Littlefield at the gun range, and on February 24, 2015 Route was convicted of both murders and sentenced to life in prison with no possibility of parole. Notably, given the documented on-going practice of the U.S. so-called "justice system" to incarcerate more people than any nation in the world, and to incarcerate and kill more Black men than any other race, if Routh was Black he probably would have received the death penalty. War is hell, but (don't hate the messenger) so is being a Black man in the U.S.
When the film ended, there was a deathly silence as people left the theater, no one speaking a word - except for a few women continuing to cry after immediately reading the on-screen narrative that Kyle was killed - in the U.S. - by a fellow American soldier. Generally, the purpose of film is to "entertain" and/or to "inform" or educate. So, the war-based action sequences were "entertaining," and learning about Kyle's life was informative, but learning so little about his death left us shallow, if not empty.
It seemed such a waste for Chris Kyle to die. Such a complete waste. Were there, are there other options? Of course, but the film was not about how to end war, but the ongoing acceptance of war and the death of American soldiers both in combat and via friendly fire.
Arguably, the biggest problem with modern-day warfare is that "politics and humanity" get in the way of ending wars. Dont' cringe at the blatant realism and honesty of the previous sentence; you may not like it, but it's true. Fact: The quickest way to end any war has always been the absolute, total destruction of the enemy - period. Kill everybody. Destroy everything. Sadly, human history is littered with thousands and thousands of conflicts that ended as a result of: (1) the greater power killing everybody and destroying everything (i.e., genocide); or (2) the greater power demonstrating and subseqently threatening to kill everybody and destroy everything (like when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Japan in WWII).
Question: So, given that the U.S. has the most lethal arsenal of weapons in the history of the world, such as the non-nuclear 30,000 pound GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (a.k.a. "The Mother of All Bombs) which is the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed with the largest yield in the US conventional arsenal - it can smash through more than 200 feet of concrete before exploding, and then it explodes with a nuclear type of mushroom cloud, why did and does the U.S. waste time and waste American lives sending ground troops to Iraq, Iran, etc.?
Answer: Because there never was and there is absolutely no serious directive to end the so-called "war" in Iraq.
If you don't "play to win" you don't win. War strategy is very simple. History shows, in the absence of genocide, many if not most people will continue to fight, even using guerrilla warfare tactics (Vietnamese) to ultimately win. Chris Kyle and thousands of other American soldiers might not have died if the "Notice of War" declaration below, which is both absolute (the hardball reality of war) and humane (a willingness to save innocent lives, which was not given to the Japanese in WWII), had been communicated to Iraq and other nations. Keep in mind, Kyle didn't give a fuck, and the War in Iraq could have ended much sooner if Iraq and the rest of the world knew the U.S. government didn't give a fuck about Iraq either.
Frankly, a contemporary film that details the intentional, robust annihilation of an entire nation would have been more . . . entertaining, and informative too, right? Yes, the previous sentence is blatantly sarcastic, but the following statement is not: the biggest problem with modern-day warfare is that "politics and humanity" get in the way of ending wars. Given the circumstances of Kyle's death, some people perceive "American Sniper" as an anti-war film, which would be wrong. Again, we celebrate how well we kill people, while being killed in the process. War is not hell, it's business as usual.
Recommendation: "American Sniper" is a very good film, with perfunctory war-based action and manipulative pseudo-drama; however, the only thing really memorable is the on-screen "text message" at the film's end of Kyle's death by another U.S. soldier on U.S. soil. If you want better "human interest" stories about war heroes, rent/buy/watch "To Hell and Back (1955)" starring Audie Murphy and "Sergeant York (1941)" starring Gary Cooper.
WAR HERO / WAR Branch of Military
Highest Rank: Active / Retired
Number of Reputed or Confirmed Kills Adwards Book Film Adaptation
Chris Kyle / Iraq War
Born: April 8, 1974
Died: February 2, 2013 (aged 38), Murdered
U.S. Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Killed 160 Silver Star ribbon.svg Silver Star Medal
BronzeStarV copy.jpg Bronze Star Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Ribbon
Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Ribbon
Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal
Film is currently the third-highest-grossing film of 2014, the highest-grossing war film in North America, and it is director Clint Eastwood's most successful film to date.
Box Office: $471.6 million
Audie Murphy / World War II
Born: June 20, 1925
Died: May 28, 1971 (age 45), plane crash
U.S. Army First Lieutenant / Major Killed 240
Medal of Honor ribbon
Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross ribbon
Distinguished Service Cross
Silver Star ribbon
Legion of Merit ribbon
Legion of Merit
Bronze Star ribbon
Purple Heart BAR
Army Good Conduct ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation ribbon
Presidential Unit Citation
American Campaign Medal ribbon
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon European-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign (10 campaign) (Arrowhead device)
World War II Victory Medal ribbon
Army of Occupation ribbon
Army of Occupation w/Germany clasp
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon
French Legion of Honor
Croix de guerre 1939-1945 with palm (France) - ribbon bar
French Croix de Guerre
Croix de Guerre 1940-1945 with palm (Belgium) - ribbon bar.png Belgian Croix de Guerre
Combat Infantry Badge
Combat Infantryman Badge
Markesman Weapons Qual Badge
Marksman Badge with Rifle Component Bar
Army Qual Expert
Expert Badge with Bayonet Component Bar
USA - Army Outstanding Civilian Service Award Outstanding Civilian Service Medal
Texas Legislative Medal of Honor Ribbon
Texas Legislative Medal of Honor
Murphy's 1949 autobiography "To Hell And Back" was a best seller.
Murphy starred as himself in his autobiographical film released by Universal-International in 1955 with the same title. The movie, To Hell and Back, held the record as Universal's highest grossing picture until 1975 when it was finally surpassed by the movie Jaws.
Box Office: $6 Million
Source 1: Wikipedia
(Sergeant) York / World War I
Born: December 13, 1887
Died: September 2, 1964 (aged 76, cerebral hemorrhage)
U.S. Army Sergeant / Colonel Killed 28, captured 132 Medal of Honor ribbon
Medal of Honor
Distinguished Service Cross ribbon
Distinguished Service Cross (Initially awarded. Later upgraded to Medal of Honor.)
Legion Honneur Chevalier ribbon
Legion of Honour
Croix de Guerre 1914-1918 ribbon
Croix de guerre (Palm)
Croce di guerra al merito BAR
War Merit Cross
ME Order of Danilo I Member BAR
Order of Prince Danilo I
Directed by Howard Hawks with Gary Cooper in the title role. Film received 11 Oscar nominations and won two, including the Academy Award for Best Actor for Cooper. It was the highest-grossing picture of 1941.