Monday, July 27, 2015
Movie Review: American Sniper
I feel like movies such as these have to be handled with figurative oven mitts. What I mean by that is not some pun that the movies tackles a "hot" issue, but that its hard to look at these types of movies objectively when they contain material that is so strongly subjective. I mean, these issues aren't "hot" at all. In American and in the rest of the world, we rightfully expect that countries who send their citizens off to war take care of those citizens when they return. There is nothing "hot" about PTSD. It is real and requires attention. What I mean about the subjective material is that this movie is about real events that happened fairly recently, all following the perspective of an admirable man who is American and in the military.
I'm probably still not making sense. You're probably still thinking to yourself, "WTF do you mean subjective?" Let me put it to you this way. Sometimes when I watch movies like this, I try to imagine I'm not American. I try to imagine I'm either from some un-involved country or even that I'm on the enemy side. Being American, it's a given that I root for the hero, I feel for his or her cause, and I hate the enemy. All of this is subjective. Had I been born in Iraq or Britain or China, I might very well think differently, and I might have a different opinion about this movie American Sniper.
Yet, I am American. So, take that as you will.
American Sniper follows at a quick pace the story of Chris Kyle, a man from Texas who join the Navy SEALs, went on 4 tours after 9/11, and then retired to help other veterans overcome the stress of re-adjusting to peacetime life, helping himself and his family along the way. The strongest compliment I can lay on this movie is the extreme detail it gave to PTSD, showing just how all this stress compounds on men and breaks them down. We've seen war movie after war movie portray the horrors of war, but very few have taken the time to tell the ending story of when these soldiers return home and nightmares stay with them. If nothing else, whether you're an American or not, I feel every human can take part in understanding this message from the movie that when you send people off to war, you must do so understanding that these people will be forever changed.
There isn't too much more I can say about this movie, honestly. It was well done, fantastic acting that made me a fan of Bradley Cooper, but it was otherwise your typical well-done war movie that makes it hard to blink as you watch and makes you feel heavy when the movie ends. All this has been said and done before, and I listen every time, but I feel American Sniper has one more message not covered by other critics and I feel is imperative to what sets it apart from (and above) other war movies.
In the movie, Chris Kyle is forced to shoot (sometimes) women and children in order to save his fellow troops. He knows, tragically, that these kids never had a chance to make their own choices, having been indoctrinated by the types of evil bastards who would send children into war. Also, Chris Kyle has to watch, helplessly, as an informant of his is killed and the informant's young son has his head drilled out, just for trying to help the Americans catch the bastards. Then towards the end of the movie, Chris Kyle states to his psychiatrist that killing the bad guys doesn't haunt him. He made those shots to save his men, and that the only thing that does haunt him is the men he couldn't save. The psychiatrist then goes and shows Chris Kyle to other wounded veterans who need saving now.
See, I think there's a hidden message in there. I think that the men Chris Kyle couldn't save doesn't stop with his fellow troops. I think the men he couldn't save includes those children he killed who fought for the wrong side, or those innocent people who were just trying to help the Americans and were killed for it. I think there's a strong anti-war message right there that among the evil bastards Chris Kyle gladly shot, there were some people (too many) who he had to shot and deeply regretted because he couldn't save those people.
Remember how I said sometimes I watch these movies and try to imagine I'm not American? Well, that right there is what would make me admire Chris Kyle above the standard of just-your-normal-average-gunho-American-patriotism. That right there is the message I feel every war movie should carry, that among the few evil bastards that truly deserve death in war, too many are killed just for being born on the losing side.
When we make war, we are all victims.