WARNING: SPOILERS, SPOILERS, SPOILERS…
Do not continue reading if you haven’t seen the movie…
Now, with those warnings out of the way, let’s begin. I’m really wanting to discuss this movie with some of you all, so let’s open the bar and have a good conversation…
I’m dying to know your all’s thoughts about the movie…
I finally saw it tonight and I’m really torn about how I feel about it.
On the one hand, it’s a good movie. Maybe even a great one, if you haven’t read the book first. (In fact, almost all of my problems result from me having read the book first, I think.)
But I left the movie pretty torn about it. And one of the things I was most frustrated about was how complete it was. What I mean is that the movie, while mostly based on truth, turns Chris Kyle’s four tours into more a test of endurance in search of this phantom, super-talented enemy sniper. On the one hand, using this device gives the movie some suspense and a thrill to it. You pull for Chris Kyle. You understand why he has to go back.
On the other, it’s not true, and war is never about such a test. (Or rarely, at best.) War at the individual ground level is about disappointment, boredom, sacrifice, pain, sweat, hurry-up-and-wait, and life-altering meaningless broken up by soul-exploding violence, which marks and scars you forever.
“American Sniper,” the movie, gets much of this right, but it sells Chris Kyle’s life short. The greater story is that, in reality, Chris Kyle went back for four tours without any of this fake meaning or suspense. It was nothing on Kyle’s part but pure sacrifice and service, over-and-over and over-and-over. Four times.
Granted, such a movie wouldn’t set box-office records, so perhaps I should just shut up. After all, the current version with its suspenseful angle is certainly telling his story in probably the largest (and broadest) way possible.
But in my mind, Chris Kyle’s story is far greater because I’m confident he learned the truth about war and its soul-ripping meaninglessness on his first tour, and he STILL went back three more times. Not to hunt some phantom sniper mentioned in only a single paragraph of the book, who Kyle never even shot, but to answer that bitch named “Duty.”
Chris Kyle knew the price of real war, and he paid it. In spades. He nearly sacrificed his marriage. He missed much of his kids’ early days. And he endured “three gunshot wounds, two helicopter crashes, six IED attacks, and numerous surgeries.”
He didn’t do that to kill some phantom sniper that was killing dozens of Marines and soldiers. He didn’t do that to set some sniper record for most kills.
He did it because he was one in ten million. Maybe one in one hundred million. And that’s the bigger story in my opinion.
Even more crazy is that the most lethal sniper in American history almost certainly would have served more tours if hadn’t departed the SEALs to save his marriage…
Chris Kyle was special, and his real life was much greater than even the incredible image portrayed in the movie.
What are your thoughts? Am I off-base and being too critical? What did you think of the movie?
Keep the faith,
Stan R. Mitchell
Oak Ridge, Tenn.
About me: I’m a full-time, action-fiction author with books similar to Vince Flynn, Stephen Hunter, and Tom Clancy. I’m also a prior infantry Marine with Combat Action Ribbon, and a guy who spent 10+ years writing every day in the newspaper business. Please consider subscribing for email alerts — I mostly post about things that either motivate you, inspire you, or make you laugh.