HOW DO YOU VIEW “AMERICAN SNIPER”?

First, let me point-out that I do not go to see movies.  They seem to focus too much on action, chase scenes and special effects.  Each and every one claims to be a “blockbuster”.  Unfortunately, with all that, you cannot expect them to also have an actual story line, a credible script, a talented director and a complementary supporting cast, can you?

American Sniper is about Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL, purported to be the best sniper ever and, after four deployments to Iraq, his trouble adjusting to civilian life–and life with his Wife and Kids.  This can happen to returning combat veterans, especially those who have been through and seen the worst, and whose job was to Kill, kill, kill..!  Unfortunately, after all that he had been through, Kyle and a friend were killed on a target range, in Texas in 2013, by a former Marine who they took along with them.

The movie has been a box office smash and there have been many commentaries in the media, both Pro and Con.  Clint Eastwood is both the Director and Producer, and he states that American Sniper is an anti-War movie, within a War move.  And perhaps that may truly be the case.  I wonder, however, if the question of whether the movie is good or bad, accurate or not, might really lie in the eyes of the beholder?

Growing up in America in the 1950’s and 60s, there were many, many war movies.  Every one seemed to have a senior military officer on screen (at the beginning) presenting it, and with the Flag and the patriotic music playing in the background.  In more recent times, the movie “Top Gun” surely gave a shot in the arm to recruitment for the Navy–specifically to fly jets.

In a war zone, especially where both the enemy and the locals do not look like “Us”, oftentimes our military has trouble telling the good guys from the bad.  Also, when soldiers just lost close friends in their platoon, they might just want to relieve some of that frustration–even though their vision might be somewhat blurred by resentment.  And, for Chris Kyle, part of his mental state, upon returning home, might have been from second-guessing whether any of those 250 “Kills” where innocents, by mistake. That can be a tough burden to carry with you…forever.

But, let’s focus back on the movie–what is the mindset of the audience who sees, or has seen, American Sniper?  Society in America is very polarized these days.  That bias can come from Washington, state capitols and also from within.  Over the last few years, we’ve had Marines urinating on the corpses of enemy bodies, a pastor in Florida burning Quran’s, and people firebombing and desecrating Mosques.  So, taking out your frustration on others, whom you do not even know, is nothing new in America.

At the same time, the story within the movie often has very little in common with the actual book, on which it is supposedly based.  For instance, as a teenager, I read the book “Dr. Zhivago”, a truly gripping novel about the Russian Revolution, in 1917.  When I saw the movie, however, it was mostly a love story, with fantastic cinematography and music.  But, what about the political aspects of the Revolution?  They were omitted.  So, poetic license sometimes can go too far!

I am not suggesting whether you either should or should not see American Sniper; however, you should keep in mind that you are bringing something else to the theater, besides yourself.  Your upbringing, your life experiences and your personal point-of-view are perhaps the most fundamental ingredients in determining how you see the movie.

NOTE:  Currently, an average of 22 American Veterans commit suicide each and every day.

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  1. #1 by cheekos on January 22, 2015 - 4:46 AM

    This is a different perspective, by a Ph.D. candidate in Sociology, who is currently writing his dissertation on suicidal ideation among Canadian military veterans returning from Afghanistan, on his Blog (“Transitions”). The link to his latest Post, “Defending ‘American Sniper’”, is as follows: http://steveroseblog.com/2015/01/21/defending-american-sniper/.

  2. #2 by cheekos on February 5, 2015 - 7:49 PM

    This is another interesting point of view, by Gail Collins, as linked in the NY Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/05/opinion/gail-collins-american-sniper-moral.html?emc=edit_ty_20150205&nl=opinion&nlid=64667462

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