“American Sniper,” the Movie

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.

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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.

USMC postpones rule for women doing pull-ups

Women just took another hit in their effort to serve in infantry units in the Marine Corps.

The Marine Corps quietly cancelled its new rule that required women to be able to do three pull ups instead of a flexed arm hang, which meant holding one’s chin above the pull-up bar for at least 15 seconds.

Here’s the full story: Marines: Most Female Recruits Don’t Meet New Pullup Standard.

Go read the story and come back and share your thoughts. I’d love to know what you all think, both about the pull-up requirement postponement, and women serving in the infantry.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. Believe me… You really want to follow me. And, please, leave a comment. It helps build our community, plus I love hearing from you guys. Best of all, I try to answer each and every comment and remember, you don’t have to sign in or use your name.

We’re winning in Afghanistan, don’t lose hope!

A fellow blogger linked to the story of shrapnel from rocket fire hitting the plane that carried the top U.S. military officer to Afghanistan, and asked folks for their thoughts as to whether it was a lucky shot or something more skilled and devious. (Link to article about plane getting hit.)

My response in the comments of his blog is probably a bit overboard, but by the time I finished venting, I decided I should share them here. (Warning: They’re cynical and affected by the fact a Marine friend of mine just lost three buddies there…)

Here’s what I wrote:

I’m sure it was just a lucky shot. They’ve been saying for ten years that we’re winning, and victory is just around the corner, right?

If we can just stay the course until 2014, or maybe 2018, then they’ll have a fully functioning democracy complete with a government that lacks corruption and a perfect society that lets women vote and drive and generally speak their minds.

Hang in there, gents. We’ve got a whole line of general officers just raring to prove they’re smarter than the dozen who came before them. And those defense contractors… Oh, they’re licking their chops and our cowardly Congressmen don’t want to turn down their donations or appear weak.

So, buck up, young men and women. Lots of medals still to be handed out, plenty of chapters left for Generals to include in their books, and still time for our miserable Congressmen to raise some more campaign donations.

We’re winning this thing! Don’t ever stop drinking the Kool Aid!

Stan R. Mitchell

Oak Ridge, Tenn.

P.S. Please accept the greatest gift I can give.

P.P.S. Thanks to all who continue to make my novel Little Man, and the Dixon County War a huge success! It’s gone as high as No. 16 on the Amazon UK Paid List (see here and here), landing smack dab between a Louis L’Amour and Zane Grey book. And don’t forget to check out my newest novel (Sold Out). It’s already gone as high as No. 81 on the Amazon Paid List for the category of War (see here and here). Learn more about both books here.