This Clint Eastwood biographical war drama can be viewed from two different perspectives’. The first is obviously the politically incorrect standpoint and the second is as a gung-ho cowboy film, but this does depend on whether you can detach yourself from the dreadful reality of a story involving the deadliest legalised assassin in American military history.
Texas born Chris Kyle was taught to shoot and kill animals by his father, to protect his younger brother from bullies and to hold America in reverence above everything else. In 2002 he married Taya Renae Kyle (played by British actress Sienna Miller) with whom he had two children. Following the 9/11 attack on the Twin Towers he volunteered for the military and was chosen for the USA’s special operations force known as the Navy Seals. In this rather unique force he became a legend as a sniper with a 160 confirmed kills with his actual tally probable nearer 255. During this period he served four tours in the Iraq War (2003 – 2011) being awarded several commendations for ‘acts of heroism and meritorious service in combat’ and receiving two Silver star medals, five Bronze Star medals, one Navy and marine Corps Commendation Medal, two navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medals along with numerous other unit and personal awards.
America love their war hero’s and its no surprise that American Sniper (2014) is the highest grossing war film in the USA, its also Director Eastwood’s highest grossing film to date and received six Academy Awards nominations but only won Best Sound Editing. Kyle is played by Bradley Cooper (American Hustle 2013, The Place Beyond the Pines 2013, Silver Linings Playbook 2012) and received a nomination for Best Actor. The screenplay was written by Jason Hall, based on the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in US Military History co-written in 2012 by Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice.
This fact-based drama was shown as part of the new Robert Burns Centre Film Theatre Film Club season and was hosted by Rachel Findlay who did a good job of introducing a difficult subject matter. The discussion that followed the screening was quite intense, tackling such diverse topics as whether the film was pro or anti-war, and if the movie delved fully into the problems that soldiers encounted when they return from the battlefield and how they adjust back into civilian life. My own personnel view was that it was neither a pro nor an anti-war movie, but was certainly one that refused to give any legitimate reasons for the troops being there in the first place. This act of war that has since destabilised the complete Middle East, giving rise to the Islamic Brigades and ISIS. We also discussed how it appears that Americas liberal gun laws and constant reports of violent aggression has anesthetise the US public into excepting that this and many other theatres of war are not illegal when obviously they are and have been down throughout the ages. This is a film primarily about the glorifying of bloodshed, death and patriotism, and the misguided credence of ‘God, family and country’ and how men are so easily dehumanised. The United States of America must revise their gun laws.