I Saw “American Sniper”

Disclaimer: I am technically the child of a veteran. My biological father served in the US Air Force for over twenty years including a few trips to Iraq during Desert Storm. By the time we met, he was serving as a Training Instructor for the USAF at Lackland AFB. He retired in 2012, less than three years after we met. I am incredibly thankful for the service of all of the men and women who choose to serve our country through the armed services. However, I do not absolve the military or military members of wrongdoing simply because of the uniform.

Alright. American Sniper. By this time I am sure that you have heard all about the film based on the life and service of Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle. If you have not, you likely live under a rock or just avoid all sources of media ever created. (No judgement). The film was directed by Clint Eastwood, Bradley Cooper stars, and the film has received six Oscar nominations from the Academy. The film has also come under a lot of fire. Some critics say that American Sniper celebrates murder while glorifying war. Others are critical of the depiction of every Iraqi character portrayed in the film. Recently, the fake baby has also come under fire. Not a true controversy, but a bit of lightheartedness in the middle of a very heavy film.

I saw the film in the local theater here in Small Town, South Dakota, an incredibly Republican state that clings tightly to its Second Amendment rights. The theater was pretty full for a late showing, but was not sold out. I have heard from others who saw the film in different parts of the country that when the movie was over audience members stood and applauded. That was not the case here. When the credits began rolling and the lights came up, you could have heard a pin drop. That was the first time in all of my years of movie going that I have experienced a silent movie theater. Nobody said a word, and nobody clapped. Everybody simply stood, recovered their belongings, and walked out of the theater without uttering a word until reaching the lobby.

If I had to describe the movie in one word, it’s be “stressful.” I confess that I spent a pretty decent portion of the film with my eyes closed or with my head turned to the side. Maybe it is a tribute to the things that I typically choose to watch, but I have yet to be desensitized to loss of life in any capacity and do not do well when presented with such images. I am that person that still skips over the scene in Top Gun *spoiler alert* where Goose dies, and that movie is nearly thirty years old.

Would I say that the film as a whole glorifies war and killing? I would say that there are characters within the film that treat the loss of Iraqi life with either celebration or complete nonchalance, but glorification is not a word that I would use to describe anything in the movie.

My biggest problem with the film – beyond a particular scene that I will not discuss for various reasons – is the portrayal of Muslim and Middle Eastern people. There is not a single non-American character in the film portrayed in a sympathetic manner. Even children are portrayed in a manner that would indicate that any and all people in Iraq want nothing more than to kill Americans. Many have argued that this film is pro-war propaganda. I do not agree with that. What I will say is that the film plays strongly on Islamophobic sentiment and therefore attempts to defend every death caused by the American military, justified or not. American military members are repeatedly seen using the word “savages,” painting all non-American characters as less than human. I cringed every time. I realize that military members need to employ certain tactics to be able to follow orders and do their jobs, but the excessive use of “savages” was not even remotely necessary in the context of the film.

In my opinion, the most sympathetic character in the entire movie is Kyle’s wife. The film did a decent job of addressing something that many war movies tend to neglect: the struggle of military families both when their service members are deployed and after they return. Being the partner of a member of the Armed Services is not an easy job at all, and they deserve all of the praise and recognition they receive and then some.

Final reactions:
Bradley Cooper – phenomenal acting job.
I totally noticed the fake baby.
You will need a stiff drink and/or ibuprofen after seeing this movie.
If I had to do it all over again, I would have waited for the DVD so I could watch with a bottle of wine.
I was never tempted to cry, probably because I was forced to turn off my emotions within the first 5min.
If you plan to see this movie in the theater, take some time to mentally prepare yourself first and decompress after.
Direct mention of PTSD in service members was glaringly absent, although it was danced around multiple times.

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One thought on “I Saw “American Sniper”

  1. Mary R. says:

    I’ve wondered about all of these things when hearing about this movie. I keep hearing how fantastic it is but had my doubts, Thank you for the heads up. I’ll wait until it comes out on DVD.

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