American Sniper is based on a book of the same name. It’s the story of Chris Kyle, husband, father, and Navy SEAL. It broke box office records the first weekend it was released. Did this film hit the target or miss the mark? Meet me after the jump to find out, spoilers ahead.
The story begins with Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) who, together with his brother Jeff, are rodeo cowboys touring the state of Texas. Chris is content with his life until the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings in Africa. These events led to a turning point in his life. Spurred by patriotism and a strong desire to protect his country, he visits a recruiter’s office. He eventually begins SEAL training at an older age, earning him the nickname of Old Man.
Chris successfully completes all the requirements and becomes a SEAL. He marries his girlfriend Taya (played by Sienna Miller), and it is at their wedding that the men in attendance learn they will be deployed to Iraq.
Chris Kyle does four tours of duty in Iraq. In his words he serves God, country, and family. This order of priority causes trouble at home with his young family.
Chris and Taya have two small children, and when Chris is home he really isn’t present. His mind is with his brethren, still overseas in conflict. There is no doubt Chris loves his family, but he is not as engaged with them as he should be. It almost seems he is most comfortable on the battlefield.
The time spent away from home not only affects the family left behind, but also the soldier. When Chris returns stateside, it is easy to see the toll the conflict has taken on him. Sounds he was accustomed to now startle him.
When he visits his newborn daughter in the nursery, through the glass window he sees her crying. He grows increasingly frustrated that the nurse ignores her to coddle a quiet child. Chris yells, pounds on the glass, and acts irrational. In everyday occurrences we see his world coming apart.
Another disturbing scene where Chris is losing his grip is during his child’s birthday party. The family dog is seen roughhousing with one of the children in the backyard but Chris, fresh home from another tour of duty, believes the child is under attack. With belt in hand he attempts to intervene until Taya steps in to thwart an embarrassing and traumatizing incident.
Taya was almost a single parent, raising two children on her own when Chris was away. The idea of speaking to your loved one while on the field of battle is something I’ve never thought about before. Taya is lucky in that she can hear Chris’s voice, but having a conversation amid gunfire and explosions has to be horrifying. One call ends abruptly leaving Taya unaware of her husband’s fate. Not knowing and being helpless to do anything about it is gut wrenching.
There were many tense moments in American Sniper. Chris was nicknamed Legend because of his record number of 255 probable and 160 confirmed sniper kills during his military career. Although he was considered by many a hero, at times he felt like so much less. In the beginning of the movie, Chris has his sights set on a mother and son. They appear harmless until the mother passes a weapon to her son. Decisions must be made, and the wrong one could lead to an investigation. Imagine having these life and death decisions not only every day, but several times a day. To have a child in your crosshairs with your finger on the trigger is a position most people will never be in. It’s no wonder why so many troops suffer from PTSD when their service ends.
When Chris is home for the funeral of a comrade, that scene elicited such an emotional response. When the flag was removed from the casket, folded with exquisite care, and presented to the chosen family member, a tear rolled down my cheek. I felt the pain in her face, as I remembered receiving the flag at my grandfather’s funeral.
I went into this movie believing that Chris Kyle was still alive. I was shocked to learn that he was killed by a fellow veteran he was trying to help. It was senseless and ironic that he lost his life at age 38, shot on a gun range.
Following the grim notice of his death (words on a black screen) came the most poignant scenes of the film. Actual footage of Chris Kyle’s funeral procession were shown with people lining the streets to pay their respects to the man known as Legend. There were also photographs of the real Chris and Taya Kyle.
This film is just over two hours, but it didn’t seem that long. It isn’t the movie genre I normally see, but I was engrossed from start to finish. Most films I’ve seen deal with conflicts that are a place in history for me. Either I wasn’t alive during them or was too small to remember. The theater was packed and there were no distractions. It was one of the best-behaved audiences I’ve sat in in a long time. For a movie of that length, that is a testament to how powerful this film is. When it was over the theater was quiet as everyone filed out. I heard a woman remark that it was sad, but other than that the mood was somber.
American Sniper moved me in ways other military films didn’t. For the first time I gave serious thought to what the troops endure to preserve our freedom. No matter your opinion on war, these men and women deserve our gratitude for choosing to fight for our country. You can watch the official trailer below.