With Trepidation, I Went To See The Film AMERICAN SNIPER

I wasn’t sure but I went to see this film anyway . . . by myself, a matinee, $8, the midtown theatre that serves wine (thought I might need some).  I have a military cognizance, and my husband not so much so.  My dad served as a US Army truck mechanic in India, drafted in 1942.  My husband’s dad had a deferment, and my husband had one also.   I have a film degree, and my husband does not.  All things considered, I felt the cultural stir about this film, and needed to check it out.  The controversy this academy-award-nominated film in six categories has generated may stem from the political right wing’s ruckus about patriotism.  Of course, that would stimulate the left wing to confront.  The political right wing may be behaving as a usurper of the film’s high value– the film is excellent.  It is long, two-and-a-half hours, and must have cost a fortune, blowing up sets, equipping so many actors with armaments, teaching actors how to be machine-gunners.  Watching credits roll, I learned that some of the filming was done in Morocco.  I can imagine that one of those Oscar nominations is for the set: the pale orange hues of a desert sandstorm, the stucco-looking structures having faint resemblance to a Tuscan landscape, the creamy American helmets capping crisp, green-streaked camouflage fabric, in contrast to dark colors of the opposing flowing apparel.  The giant white military Humvees powering through the towns stirred my heart through my screening eye.  A huge scary skull stenciled on a rotating shield atop them added a strange beauty to the shots.

One of the Oscar nominations is for best actor.  Bradley Cooper deserves it; I cannot imagine the role of Chris Kyle, legendary sharpshooter, better played.  Funnily enough, I can relate to the Chris Kyle character.  I too got narrow beliefs from my family and church.  Anyone who knows me or read my memoir knows I was steeped in Christian ethics.  I wasn’t a rodeo rider like Chris, but I am a Texas girl.  Cowboys and cowgirls were continual metaphors.  As a junior-high Eaglettes Captain, I wore white vinyl gauntlets over white gloves, and got fit and strong for marching in white boots across the Dallas football fields for half-time shows.  This is my take on the main character of AMERICAN SNIPER Chris Kyle:  he became a SEAL (Sea, Air, and Land) to express his gifts of mental strength and supremely developed physique to serve a desperate need his country had.  A quote from Coretta Scott King fits this character:  “There is a spirit, and a need, and a person at the beginning of every great human advance.  Every one of these must be right for that particular moment of history or nothing happens.”  Chris Kyle left the Texas rodeo scene as a thirty-year-old for sharpshooting in Iraq, committing spirit, mind, and body to the need.  Terrorists had penetrated his country.  They flew passenger airplanes into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.  The Chris character said that it was important to keep them out of Los Angeles, right?  You don’t want them in San Francisco or farther in, right?

THE CHRIS KYLE CHARACTER WORE A BASEBALL CAP AND PHONED HOME FROM A CELL DEVICE HE CARRIED WHILE PERFORMING SHARPSHOOTING The Chris Kyle Character Wore A Baseball Cap and Phoned Home on a Cell He Carried In closing, when we go to the movies, let’s call to mind the teaching channel that the movies provide.  We must also remember that each pair of screening eyes sees individually.  A powerful film means different things to different people.  To end this essay, instead of including the instigative quotes of the more “black & white” thinkers, I choose one from a seasoned linguist, one in his last years as writer and lecturer to university-oriented audiences of thousands, an academic renown for studying our country’s cultural wars, Noam Chomsky.  According to a January 29th article in The New York Times, Professor Chomsky was aware that Mr. Kyle noted in his memoir that he was fighting “savage, despicable evil.” Mr. Chomsky added, “We’re all tarred with the same brush . . . for largely keeping silent about official policy . . .”  He was particularly referring to the USA “global drone assassination campaign,” but not having studied this initiative, I am hesitant to close with that view.

A closing thought I like resembles the one I began with– if you feel an opinion heating up in you about this controversial film, go and see it.  Exercise a freedom, and do not lay aside critical mindedness; same way you treated your teachers.  Then, do what I did: write down your feelings about the character of Chris Kyle (b. 1974, d. 2013).  Mr. Kyle did not succumb to terrorists.  He did four tours and holds the record of kills among sharpshooters.  At home stateside, figuring out how to live as a husband, father, and giver of community service to veterans in hospital, he was shot dead at the hand of a disturbed veteran he had volunteered to help.  The newspaper article mentioned above addressed this irony with a ring of truth, “Are guns useful for self-defense?  Here was one of the most skillful shooters in American history holding guns, surrounded by guns, and was unable to protect himself.”  Oh, and one more from the producer, Clint Eastwood, “The biggest antiwar statement is what it does to the families left behind.”  I do not mean to present an antiwar statement, rather I mean to herald writing, and in writing, aiming small for the particular expression of meaning.

4 thoughts on “With Trepidation, I Went To See The Film AMERICAN SNIPER

  1. I haven’t seen this film. I have seen much of Clint Eastwood over the years. In his early TV cowboy roles, he seems earnest, friendly and easy on the eyes. Later, in his Dirty Harry roles, he ate up much screen time killing creeps: Blam, blam, blam! Justice done! To my mind, he is the icon of revenge for all those guys who don’t think they need to share their power. In the last film I watched, Clintwood was old and still angry, his language spattered with harsh swear words that seemed to best reflect whatever he felt inside. Eastwood apparently has it all–fame, fortune, power, adultation–but to me he is an empty shell pouring out rage. He may have captured the hearts of Hollywood and millions of men and women out there, but he still is the last man on earth I’d want as my dad or husband.

    • Did you see GRAN TORINO? It was a good story of a neighborhood populated by Hmong people. Clint Eastwood was the curmudgeon with the vintage car, a Gran Torino. He wrote some music for that film also.

  2. Patsy, so glad you decided to see the American Sniper and happy you enjoyed it and gave such nice comments. I was already aware of most of the situations due to my volunteer work at the USO, but never cease to be amazed at the sacrifices so many are willing to make for others….
    Did you note that the terrorist sharpshooter Chris Kyle finally shot toward the end of the movie had previously won a medal in the Olympics….I thought that was an interesting point….
    I enjoyed your comments from a film critic/student point of view….I too noted the skull on the shield on the top of the hummer to protect the gunner, and your comments were right on target…..
    Also, I knew the actual battles were viewed and commanded from a distance , but it is much easier for me to understand after seeing it in the movie…guess I’m truly visual.
    Aren’t we blessed to be able to freely comment on our thoughts without fear of death and persecution?

  3. Patricia
    What a great review!! Thank you for posting it. I was thinking of a movie this afternoon, so your review helped me to decide what to see at Studio on Square. Coming from a “military family” and living through the Vietnam era, as we both did, I am always interested in these kinds of films.
    You have a gift/please keep on writing !! Love
    Molly

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