Monday, February 23, 2015

American Sniper

American Sniper - 132min - R

Sitting in the theater with the soundless credits rolling I had time to collect my thoughts and put down on paper some of the things that were going through my head. This movie focuses on one person's journey through the war from his perspective. We see his transformation from idealistic young kid to hardened war veteran. We can see the price that our service members and their families pay for their service. But I have to ask myself: what does this film inspire me to do? What does it tell us about the war that we didn't already know? This film is a yellow light. As a biography it highlights the man Chris Kyle but only the events during the war and his death. They are selecting only the history that supports the narrative of Chris Kyle, American Hero.

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is a sniper for the US Navy Seals. The story takes us from recruitment, to deployment and even him marring his wife (Sienna Miller), though his struggle with multiple deployments and his personal life when he returns home. After the deployments he uses his experiences to help veterans acclimate back into civilian life.

I was pleased at how much they focused on just the main character's achievements and how he helped people when he got back. His journey is fascinating and it's important to tell it. His struggles illustrate how hard it is on our veterans and even if the story ends in his death it shows how hard it can be to re-assimilate onto civilian society.

I wonder if the director (Clint Eastwood) will tell this story from the other end as well. In war there are two different perspectives. Watching the story of the other sniper, an Olympic medalist returning to his home only to be recruited in the war, would be a great companion to this film. His films Flags of our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima told the war from two sides. Those films did a great job of give us a well-rounded perspective of each side of the war.

I don't think the other movie will ever be made because of the director's politics and because the viewing public would never be ready for it. Our wounds are still too raw to be objective enough to see any other side.

This movie is a political rorschach test. Those who are very right wing are going to see this as a pro American film in the war. The left wing crowd will use this as another example of how bad the war is. But the movie itself does a good job keeping to the middle of the road. Taking no side on the events surrounding the main character gives it a sterile feel leaving the viewer to fill in the motivations that speak to them.

The few nitpicky things that took me out of the moment were the use of CGI to give the blood more of an effect. It unfortunately looks poor and didn't enhance anything but my feeling like I was at a movie. The baby dolls that they used also took me out of the importance of the dialog that was being said. It was again something that took me out of the story at what should have been some very engaging material.

What do you think about the film? What did you walk away with?

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