I saw American Sniper last night. Let me add my voice to the chorus of others saying that this is a great movie. When the credits began to roll at the end, every person in our theater sat in stunned, admiring silence. No one said a word. Eventually, we all began to file out with a lump in our throat and a full heart.
The movie was hard to watch. It was very violent but successful in evoking in some measure the real horrors of war. And maybe more than anything, it portrays how wicked Al Qaeda in Iraq really was. Somehow that fact seems to have been lost on many Americans ten years ago when popular support for the war waned. But there really was a “Butcher of Baghdad,” and he really did kill children with a power drill. And there really were torture chambers where unspeakable atrocities occurred. In other words, there really is good and evil in the world, and that fact comes out clearly in the movie. You end up loving Chris Kyle because he looked that evil in the face and charged toward it without flinching. He was an unabashed patriot.
Chris Kyle comes across as a bona fide hero in this film. He is a man’s man, a father, a husband, a soldier, and deeply broken by war. He is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. But he was an amazing figure, no question. I think David French’s review of the film is spot-on:
The movie gives America something it’s lacked since the start of the war — a war hero on a truly national, cultural scale. Yes, we’ve learned the stories of Marcus Luttrell and others who’ve achieved great and heroic things, but with the success of this movie, Chris Kyle has entered the pantheon of American warriors — along with Alvin C. York and Audie Murphy — giving a new generation of young boys a warrior-hero to look up to, to emulate. After all, our kids’ heroes can’t be — must not be — exclusively quarterbacks, rappers, or point guards.
No one is claiming that Chris Kyle is Jesus. Every human being has flaws. And he risked no more and no less than the thousands upon thousands of anonymous soldiers and Marines who fought house-to-house during their own turns downrange, but he undeniably did his job better than any man who came before him — or any man since — and he did that job as part of his selfless service to our nation. I’m thankful that my own son counts Chris Kyle as a hero.
You don’t come away from this movie thinking, “Wow, that Bradley Cooper is awesome.” Really, the dominant feelings are evoked by the story of Chris Kyle’s life. But still, Bradley Cooper turned in an amazing performance. He so inhabited that role that you don’t even think about the fact that he’s just acting a part. He became a rough and tumble Texan through and through. It is too bad that the message of the movie may prevent Clint Eastwood and Bradley Cooper from getting their due by left-leaning Academy Awards voters.
This movie takes its place on my short list of all-time favorite war movies, which includes “Saving Private Ryan,” “Band of Brothers,” and “To Hell and Back.” But like those other movies, I don’t know if I will see this one again. It’s just too hard. But still, it is so good.
[Content Warning: This is not a family movie. There is no explicit nudity or sexual activity, but it still has some highly suggestive scenes with Chris Kyle and his wife. The language is as salty as you might imagine from Navy Seals in war. And of course the violence is intense.]
INTERVIEW WITH CHRIS KYLE’S WIDOW