A lot has been said about American Sniper and nearly none of it has been about its Oscar Nomination this year for Best Picture. In fact it’s the story that appears to have divided a nation with one camp saying it over glorifies soldiers and war, whilst the rest think Kyle was self centred and his autobiography has done nothing more than become a tool for him to create a vehicle for his (some say) war stories to be embellished.
I haven’t read Kyle’s book and I have only read in part some of the issues that surround the controversy – take the bar fight where Kyle claims to have decked Jesse Ventura to which Ventura claims he is a liar and sued him successfully. Perhaps he did lie about this and who knows why if indeed he did. What is fact is that Kyle served four tours of duty in Iraq. Those tours earned him two Silver Stars and five Bronze Stars with Valor. He survived IED attacks, gunshot wounds and was known among his SEAL brethren as The Legend and to his enemies as al-Shaitan, “the devil.”
Kyle has been credited by the Pentagon with 160 confirmed kills, which suggests that the real number was far greater and he was, like so many others in similar circumstances just a man who served his country.
So with all this in my mind I went and saw American Sniper. I am a self-proclaimed fan of war movies and Clint Eastwood and I was expecting big things and it did not disappoint. It did however leave me by the end feeling heavy and questioning why people have acted so negatively towards Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper at his best) and more so the United States and what some say is a need to glorify and immortalise their military.
I’m not American yet I admire their love for their armed services and the respect they show these people who served and continue to serve their country. Equally I love my country, Australia, however I am yet to see the same level pf patriotism and respect shown at the singing of our national anthem at a sporting event such as I’ve seen and experienced in the U.S. at a Red Sox game. The most harrowing part of this film are the closing scenes of Kyle’s funeral which appeared to have stopped Texas. The genuine gratitude of those imagines that people showed Kyle as his coffin rolled past them could no less be described as gut wrenching.
It brings me to the next point, I have read reviews that condemn the depiction of the enemy in this film as racist and a blatant jab at Iraqi Arabs. On this occasion it is difficult to see how you would depict Arabs in the context of this war and circumstances of this particular story. Just like Kyle was seen as “the devil” to the enemy “the Butcher” was equally as despised by the American’s and the villagers at his mercy.
This film was heavy and brilliant, it left me with a heavy heart, not just for Kyle’s loss but the total loss war brings to everyone that it touches. Cooper’s performance is arguably his best yet as he embodies Kyle and oozes confidence and vulnerability all at once. Miller is unrecognisable as the resilient Taya Kyle and Eastwood’s direction is stellar managing to demonstrate the horror of war and impact on the lives of those not only in it but living it through their loved ones.
American Sniper is nominated for Best Picture this year and I can see why. However it is too close to call given the strength of the other contenders in this category.
American Sniper – Official Trailer