I finally got the chance to watch American Sniper– I film I can’t say I was particularly looking forward to seeing, but since there has been so much chatter about it, I figured I needed to watch it before I said anything more.
For pure entertainment, American Sniper delivers. There is a lot of war, a lot of good vs. evil, you get to see why this guy was so highly regarded as an American hero during his 4 tours of duty. The sad part is that the film knows that it can’t just be another Call of Duty like Military film when it tells this story– Clint Eastwood won’t have it that way. Instead this film chooses to occasionally go deep into this mans personal life, showing that killing literally over 100 people has its consequences on homelife. PTSD is a real thing for many, many people, but our hero doesn’t directly confront it in this film, although in the end, he is killed by someone with PTSD– who, by the way, was just sentenced today.
The movie really goes over the top for me in this aspect– we see Chris go through being a soldier, but the amount that he is actually home and present in his families life is quite minimal in what was probably real time, but also in movie time. Enough personal life is sprinkled into this to slightly tug at the heart, enough to feel bad for everyone involved, but to me it also seemed rushed and ill timed. We see him for the birth of his children (his daughter is played by a baby doll in the film): http://hollywoodlife.com/2015/01/20/american-sniper-fake-baby-explained-plastic-doll-bradley-cooper/
In all, we see Chris outside of the war for about 7 days during the time he got married to when he dies– the timeline is just a mess. Then you start to realize that the entire story outside of the war is equally a mess– but luckily 90% of the film is about the time he spent tracking the evil-doers and saving American lives. Which is where I get a little angry because here we have another film showcasing the loss of American life but not saying anything about all of the lives loss by the people who were apparently being “liberated” by the Americans. Here is yet another story where we showcase our “shock and awe” against theirs– so many messages over and over in this film leave a poor taste in my mouth– the story in the beginning where as a boy he is told that there are sheep and wolves to protect the sheep, or the rigors of becoming a navy seal and anyone that walks away is a quitter– these are all messages that make me cringe having two young boys.
When you watch films like this as a father, it makes you much more aware of what they are really trying to convey, you pay attention to the subtle undertones of Bravery, Alliegence, Protection– which are all valuable things, but it also heightens your awareness of how senseless all of it is– how any kind of war at this point in our history we no longer fight nation states, but cells of people unhappy with government– this was never our war to fight, but fight we did and what do we have to show for it? A Clint Eastwood movie that markets itself about PTSD, but really its about glorifying the American Soldier, The American Sniper, The American Hero.