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Thursday, January 22, 2015

American Sniper - A Film Review

I went to see American Sniper last Sunday. I was mixed on it. The good: Bradley Cooper's performance, the intense combat scenes, the depiction of PTSD, especially in scenes where Chris Kyle (Cooper's character) is with his family and not mentally connected with them, reliving the war in his head, or being triggered by various sounds and noises. One of the sequences that was very hard to watch was when an innocent Iraqi family is stuck in a horrible situation, and I appreciated that the director Clint Eastwood showed that, as horrible as it was, to avoid depicting of all Iraqis as bad people.
The bad: from what I have read of, Chris Kyle was a racist person who took pride in killing Iraqi people (enemy soldiers as well as civilians) and bragged about it, and went on his tours of duty under the guise of "protecting America," but was addicted to the war and may have greatly exaggerated his number of kills in his book. The film, while keeping Kyle's sense of patriotism mixed with a misguided notion of protecting America, softens his character and makes him less of a sociopathic type, and shows him having remorse over shooting civilians who were aiding the enemy, something that it sounds like the real Kyle would not have remorse over.
The film does break out of that "American hero" image that Kyle got by showing Kyle being distant at home with his family, seeing his family more as symbols to protect and fight for rather than actually having emotional connections with them; mentally affected by the war; unable to function as a normal person; and hesitating to visit veterans at the hospital because he wants to still be in Iraq protecting his brothers. Each time he goes on his tour (he goes on four tours of Iraq) it seems like he goes there less to "protect America" and more so that he feels more alive and focused in the battlefield than he does in civilian life, and doesn't show much concern for being away from his wife and children for many months at a time. It doesn't feel like a patriotic film, though it may be interpreted that way. It felt like a better depiction of Kyle than what he was like in real life.

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