‘American Sniper’ Review: Myth vs. Legend.

January 25, 2015 1 Comment

So far, 2015 has ended on a low note for films. There were barely any decent releases in the box office. Not to mention, ‘The Imitation Game (2014),’ as well as Selma (2014) all lost their Golden Globe nominations for majority of their categories, if not all of them (Selma at least won Best Original Song). From here on out, we are on our way to the Oscars, but there are plenty of films that can surprise us until the time being.

One particular film I tried watching when it was in select theaters (around the same time a Selma), which was called American Sniper (2015). For whatever reason, this film sold out each and every single show during its advance release. I couldn’t explain it. I didn’t know what the film was about or what made it so special. All I knew was that people wanted to see it.

Eventually, I got a chance to see it last Saturday, and boy is it an experience.

The film is based off of the book of the same name ‘American Sniper (2012),’ which is an autobiography of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. He is also known as ’The Legend.’ Why is he considered a legend? He, according to who you ask, holds the record for the most Sniper kills in U.S. history, past and present. It is estimated, also according to who you ask, credited with saving hundreds (if not thousands) of lives by preventing potential attacks.

Clint Eastwood’s second film of 2014 is probably considered his best one yet. The film has grossed more than $110 million dollars its first release weekend. The film sort of reminds me of The Hurt Locker (2008), except its a much more gung-ho and intensely patriotic story. Initiated by screenwriter Jason Hall, the book also had two co-authors along with Kyle, who are Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice. It goes without saying that the book has a different tone and feel from the film (I will address the book later). I guess for climactic effect, the screenwriters decided to focus on the tours Kyle (Bradley Cooper) served in Iraq, which become emotionally draining on his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller).

The setting takes place where you would expect about the Iraq war to take place. Kyle is constantly tested every second he is on active duty, and is forced to make split second decisions. The very first screen occurs where it looks like a mother and her son is on an outing, minding their own business. The next thing you know, the mother is taking a rather large grenade out of her garment. Whether or not the garment was an Al-amira, Shayla, Khimar or Chador, I couldn’t tell (if anyone wants to correct me, be my guest).

Naturally, the Marines would least suspect a child of attempting to kill Americans, but ‘The Legend’ isn’t convinced. Kyle apparently has the ability to spot threats and targets, which is probably why he is called ‘The Legend.’ Going into this film, I knew nothing about the “American Sniper.” I didn’t know anything about Chris Kyle or anything regarding his service. So imagine my surprise when I see Kyle, not shoot to wound (irrelevant on the battle field), but killed his boy with a single shot.

Very rare to see in films, but this is most likely an actual depiction of what occurs on the battle field. As if this scene couldn’t out-do itself, the woman, mortified at her son’s lifeless body, suddenly finds the courage to pick up the grenade and complete the job. Needless to say, she fails. Kyle picks off a another shot, killing this woman before she could get close enough to throw. She throws the grenade, but it falls short of its distance, ultimately exploding a few yards short of its target. It was watching that scene when I learned that this film is no joke, and not for the faint of heart.

Without giving away too much here, most of the film is dedicated to Kyle killing “The Butcher, (in the book, he was known as “Shaitan Ar-Ramadi,” or, “The Devil of Ramadi”). This role is played by Mido Hamada, who has been featured in television roles, such as Homeland, Judge John Deed and my favorite, 24 (obviously, he is no stranger to playing a terrorist or someone of middle eastern descent). The film reminds me of a class war film known as Enemy at the Gates (2001), a violent and bloody sniper battle between the insurgents and the U.S. armed forces. ’The Butcher’ kills one of ours, Kyle kills two of theirs. In fact, Kyle was so good at what he did, ‘The Butcher’ placed a $100,000 bounty on his head (although, in the book, it was originally $21,000, and later increased to $80,000). The along with the pressures of saving his comrades in battle, killing ‘The Butcher’ and attempting to adjust to life at home with Tara and the children, it makes for a pretty intense film.

Of course, the politics of war are complete no where to be found in this film, which is why this film is considered so ‘controversial.’ This is always the case with war films. As with any war movie (especially about Iraq), you have opinions from all sides of the political spectrum, left and right.

There was also some controversy surrounding the movie being considered ‘propaganda,’ as the Chris Kyle portrayed in the film is very different from the Chris Kyle from his memoirs. Considering this, I have decided to read Chris Kyle autobiography, and determine whether or not the film is accurate.

Some people like to complain about the inaccuracies of films, and the books these films are based on. I’m not one of these people. Books are not films. It is its own form of art, with its own set of values, rewards, and challenges. It must stand on its own and should be evaluated on its own merits.

The Film Erroneously Portrays Every Muslim As A Terrorist

There are those who watch films, and there are those who actually see films. Anyone actually looking (or seeing) what was going on in the film wouldn’t make a serious claim such as this. There were a couple particular scenes where Kyle has killed with his rifle. Of course, each and ever single one of these kills were confirmed threats (most notably the kill I have mentioned earlier).

Would that imply that every single Iraqi encountered in the film was a terrorist? Of course not. There were actually some Iraqi who risked their lives to help Kyle and the US armed forces. Where there some Iraqis Kyle did not want to kill? Absolutely. However, it was pretty clear in the film (as well as the book) the type of enemy Kyle faced in Iraqi

And the first time in Iraq — and the only time — I killed anyone other than a male combatant. It was my duty to shoot, and I don’t regret it. The woman was already dead. I was just make sure she didn’t take any Marines with her. It was clear not only did she want to kill them, but she didn’t care about anybody else nearby who would have been blown up by the grenade or killed in the firefight. Children on the street, people in the house, maybe her child…

She was too blinded by evil to consider them. She just wanted Americans dead, no matter what.

Prologue: Evil in the Crosshairs. Pg 9

Kyle Enjoyed Killing Iraqis

Inaccurate statements wouldn’t be complete without taking words out of context. No where located in the book did Kyle say that he enjoyed killing people, especially Iraqis. Kyle, on the other hand, enjoyed his job as a Navy SEAL. And yes, there are sections located in the book about Kyle wanting to fight in the war, but they are merely statements about wanted to see some action. They were hardly bloodthristy pass

There’s another question people ask a lot: Did it bother you killing so many people in Iraq? I tell them, “No.” And I mean it. The first time you shoot someone, you get a little nervous. You think, “can I really shoot this guy? Is it really okay?” But after you kill your enemy, you see it’s okay. You say, “Great.” You do it again. And Again. You do it so the enemy won’t kill you or your countrymen. You do it until there’s no one left for you to kill.

That’s what war is.

I loved what I did. I still do. If circumstances were different — if my family didn’t need me — I’d be back in a heartbeat. I’m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL.

Prologue: Evil in the Crosshairs. Pg. 11

The Iraq War Had Nothing To Do With 9/11

No on actually believes the fighting in Iraq has anything to do with 9/11. Not even Chris Kyle believes this. The war in Iraq has more to do with the never-ending ‘War on Terrorism,’ which isn’t about just one country or one man, but taking steps to neutralize terrorism where it breeds (according to parts of the Bush Doctrine,

Now in relation to the Iraq War (which I don’t really care about) and whether Saddam Hussein was actually part of the war on terror is debatable. It is already on record that Hussein has don’t major atrocities to his own people, but hardly something to warrant a declaration of War (not that the US has actually declared war on Iraq). However, what is not debatable was fact that Iraq has harbored, aided and supported terrorist fighting governments in Iran and Turkey. Saddam has commissioned terrorist attacks on US facilities during the Gulf War in 1991. Saddam has also funneled money to the families of suicide bombers (Hamas supporters). Its pretty clear that Saddam did have ties to terrorism, which would qualify him has a target for the War on Terrorism.

However, Saddam’s terrorist ties was not enough to support a declaration of war on Iraq. The argument for invading Iraq originally sparked when the U.S. suspected that Iraq was actually pursuing enriched uranium, which is used for Nuclear Weapons (or WMDs). Despite the fact that mostly everyone believed these claims (and I do mean, mostly everyone), these claims turned out to be false. This warranted many accusations of the U.S. preemptively evading Iraq under false pretenses. which is also false.

The United Nations  weapons inspectors were given 12 years to find weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The United Nations Security Council Resolutions found that not only was in Iraq in breach of their disarmament obligations, they were given ample time to comply with said obligations. Iraq failed to operate with UN and IAEA inspectors (International Atomic Energy Agency). This only increased suspicions of Iraq’s nuclear program.

Of course, If Saddam had nothing to hide, he could have just cooperated with UN sanctions and IAEA inspectors. Even Chris Kyle knew that much:

For months, the United Nations Security Council pressured Iraq to comply fully with U.N. resolutions, especially those requiring inspections of suspected weapons of mass destruction and related sites. War wasn’t a foregone conclusion — Saddam Hussein could have complied and shown inspectors everything they wanted to see. but most of us knew he wouldn’t. So when we got the word that we were shipped out to Kuwait, we were excited. We figured we were going to see war.

Chapter 2: JackHammared (Hazed and Hitched) Pg. 43 -44

Most people understand that the Iraq war was based on flawed intelligence, and a preconceived notion that didn’t pan out the way people thought it would. My questions are, what exactly does this have to do with Kyle?

I could probably come up with a reason as to why these claims are nonsensical, but I’ll leave that up to Kyle:

As I was heading out, I passed a small group of protesters demonstrating against the war. They had signs about baby killers and murderers and whatever, protesting the troops who were going over to fight. They were protesting the wrong people. We didn’t vote in Congress; we didn’t vote to go to war. I signed up to protect this country. I do not choose the wars. It happens that I love to fight. But I do not choose which battles I go to. Y’all send me to them.

I had to wonder why these people weren’t protesting their congressional offices or in Washington. Protesting the people who were order to protect them — let’s just say it put a bad taste in my mouth.

Chapter 6: Dealing Death (Back To War). Pg.90

Overall, these are the most common criticism of the film (at least, criticism that I took seriously). I just needed to stop this before the blog gets out of hand. I needed to remind myself that this is a film review, not a book review. Still, if you have seen the film and you haven’t read the book, I recommend doing so. It’s pretty interesting, and you can probably learn more about the military (especially the Navy SEALS) from reading this book than you could ever do playing Call of Duty…

Final Verdict: A

What can I say that hasn’t already been said earlier. The film is crafted beautifully. The movie could have not been casted any better, the cinematography was excellent and the screenwriting (for the most part) stays true to the writing style and the humor Kyle’s autobiography. I went to the movie theaters to see this film twice for research. I probably would have done it just for the enjoyment if I didn’t have to do any research on it.

The film is very enjoyable if you take politics out of it (which there is none, but people will find anything to complain about). The film is generally held in high regard, as it was nominated for 6 oscars, including Motion Picture of the Year. Even if it doesn’t win, that is a big legacy to have.

Everyone will have their opinions of Chris Kyle and ‘The American Sniper.’ Some of those opinions will be valid, while others will not be

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