Thoughts on An American Sniper

Image Courtesy of: American Sniper Movie Poster

Image Courtesy of:
American Sniper Movie Poster



WARNING:  Contains Minimal and General Spoilers



General Impression:  An impressive movie depicting the costs of war on a single individual fighting it, and on his family, enduring his fighting it.

Bradley Cooper does an amazing job of relating the emotional turmoil war has on a warrior—not just the physical toll, but the emotional toll.  His goal is to save American lives.  To assess the threats against his men, and to eliminate the threat.  He does so from a human perspective and not without personal costs.

Clint Eastwood and the producers, did not cow or shy away from the realities of war or the internal conflicts created in warriors. They didn’t spare the viewer from loss, or from the gory details in war. I applaud them for this honesty in their film.  War is never without steep costs, and we, the viewers, need to be aware of those costs by all who pay them.

Of significant interest was the emotional price the lead character paid and the price his family paid for his willingness to serve. By the end of his fourth tour in the war zone, he’d had enough.  He’d eliminated the opposing sniper killing his team, and came home.  He suffered post traumatic stress—evidenced by hearing the sounds of the war in his mind while staring at a blank TV screen, by reacting to a dog playing with a child at a barbeque that he internally interpreted as an attack. As many Veterans do, he struggled to come home and to be at home.  And he found a vehicle to assist him in a support group at a Veteran’s Hospital. In helping other soldiers reorient to their post-war lives.

Of Interest.  While not the focus of this story, the impact of having a spouse at war on his wife was very well done.  Home alone, pregnant with their first child, with their second, coping with challenges, and then when her spouse returns, coping with him being back but not really there—reintegrating into the family—was very well done, and again, honest. She tried to understand his need to go back to the war zone again and again.  But even on being told by him that when he wasn’t there, more Americans were dying (personal responsibility), that he regretted not being able to save more of them, she did the human thing:  rebelled from the perspective of the impact his absence had on her and the family.  She needed him at home.  This is a common challenge and gut-wrenching feeling spouses of those deployed endure often.

Noteworthy.  This movie is not political, though war is political. The warrior didn’t decide to go to war, he was ordered to fight the war politicians sent him to fight. He was good at it, and because he was, he was deployed often. He’s at peace with every shot he’s taken, and when asked about his “kills,” he’s more interested in the number of lives he’s saved. Those are, incalculable, unfortunately.

This movie is not about the war.  It’s about the warrior. It’s about his life, his views, his family, and his willingness to serve something bigger than him—ideals of freedom and dignity in service to others.

This movie is an excellent character study of an American Sniper in his professional and personal life.

The most moving scene.  At the very end of the movie, to honor the fallen warrior, a SEAL places his medal on Kyle’s coffin.  The camera is close up, and all you see is this one man hammering in his medal with the heel of his hand.  The camera pulls back, and you see the entire top of the coffin is covered with other SEAL’s medals. It’s an emotional knock-out.

Stars.  ★★★★★   I rate it 5 Stars, and if there were 10, I’d give it to them.  The movie was raw, real, and honest. It didn’t glamorize, it didn’t whitewash, it revealed the many layers of the human beings sent to fight.  Flaws, heroism, devotion. Bravery, integrity, honesty. Pain and loss are related with the same bald frankness as joy and triumph. Emotionally complex and accountable.  Excellent job, and it deserves all the kudos that can be given.  It won’t get them, I fear due to unrelated biases, but it deserves them.


Beyond the movie.  A few random but related thoughts…

1.  I sat through over 20 minutes of “Previews” on coming films.  All were science fiction.  I’m not sure who selects the previews of other films to feature, but whoever it is remains clueless of what brings people to watch American Sniper.  Obviously, they “think” is for bang-em-up, blow-em-up.  They’re wrong.  People are going to see American Sniper because the man in it is brave, loyal, steadfast and dedicated.  He’s good at what he does, but he does what he does from a place of honor, in service to something bigger than himself.  That’s the type of movies that should be previewed with it—if you want viewers to go see the films you’re previewing.  On this, the boat was missed in a big way.

2.  A set of parents brought a child to see this movie.  He couldn’t have been more than three years old.  Foul language was rough and frequent (and unnecessary for the most part, but that’s beside the point). Even more importantly, the visuals were graphic and gory and in your face grisly.  No child should be exposed to that.  Their tender minds aren’t able to process it and constructively cope.  I expect that child will have nightmares for a month—and the fault for it sits squarely on the shoulders of his parents. Mom and Dad, what were you thinking?

3.  Twenty minutes of Previews is ten minutes too many.  I really wanted to see this film, but even really wanting to see it, I was annoyed and irritated at twenty minutes of commercials.  I was not a happy captive audience. Add to that, being forced to watch previews of movies unlike the one I was about to watch… Downright cranky at being captive for so long on something I have no interest in.

4.  An FYI on the audience.  Many were couples.  Age? All over the place.  I was a bit surprised at how many clusters of women were in the theater (30s to 70s).  There were solo men also, but few of them.  More women than men viewers. This was at 12:45 on a weekday. School was in session here (including college level classes), which skewed the demographics on their age groups.

An extended comment.


Like most of the rest of Americans, I’ve heard this film is controversial, and I’ve seen the negative criticism online.  After actually seeing the film, I have to tell you, it’s not controversial, it’s the portrait of a warrior.  And the negative criticism is based in political preferences and philosophy, not in the film.  As I write this, I half wonder if those most outspoken against it are just trying to get attention for themselves.  And I’m wondering if they actually saw the movie.


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