American Sniper: A Patriotic Homage to a Flawed Man



"American Sniper" is a decent war movie; I enjoyed that aspect of it. It portrayed the horrific acts that are committed in war in a slightly more romantic fashion for my taste, but they were sometimes hard to watch (not because they were bad).

Bradley Cooper is great in his performance as Chris Kyle, a very troubled man and one of the greatest snipers in American military history. Kyle is a very complex character to interpret for an actor, and Cooper does a great job of doing just that.

Where the film looses me is that I wanted a more flawed character in Kyle. It is there – but it is very subtle – with his very subdued racism and aggression towards Middle Easterners (referring to every person in that region as “savages” and seeming to enjoy killing his opponents), and his disconnection (Kyle suffered from PTSD) with his family and fellow soldiers.

Kyle is from rural Texas and grows up on a farm wanting to be a cowboy from an early age. His father, a pastor and hunter, taught him some very harsh lessons about how he wants his children to be like in life. He explains that there are three types of people in the world: the sheep, the wolf, and the sheepdog.

This speech from Kyle’s father instills a sense of pride, and also a sense of entitlement within the young boy that lays way for the thought process that it is OK to fight fire with fire. Kyle thinks of himself as the sheepdog because he is protecting his brothers-in-arms from evil.

He is both right and wrong to think this. America was the invading country in the Iraq War. Yes, there were horrible people that were in charge in the region and they needed to be gotten rid of, and he needed to protect his fellow men. But this war was fought mainly over the false assumption (thanks Dick Cheney) that there were nuclear bombs in Iraq, and it was also to protect the United States’ oil supply.

Director Clint Eastwood portrays America’s involvement in Iraq as solely to combat terrorism, which is eventually what ended up happening, but not in the beginning. Remember, the invasion of Iraq happened two years after 9/11. The film’s timeline portrays the Kyle training and heading out to war right after the attacks.

            The film is shot pretty well, and it is nice to look at, but it felt like Eastwood was trying too hard to be Kathryn Bigelow ("The Hurt Locker;" "Zero Dark Thirty") and it ended up with him doing something that I do not like in war films, and that is romanticizing war.

He glorifies the killing of most of the opposing militants (besides the first two killings). I know it is meant to be patriotic, but war is neither something you should romanticize. Neither is it really patriotic when all America did in the region is mess things up even more.

I enjoyed parts of the film, and the acting was terrific, but it made me frustrated the more I thought about it afterwards.