Thursday, June 18, 2015

American Sniper Review

So who has anxiously been awaiting this review or maybe what I should ask is does anyone even read this blog any more?  Dr. J was teasing me yesterday that I pretty much just write this blog now to vent.  Yikes, is that true?  Maybe...if so forgive me while I vent a little about American Sniper.  This weekend we had a chance to finally see the movie American Sniper.  It was OK.  I remember when it came out there were people that were outraged by it and then on the other hand there were people who were outraged it didn't win any major awards.   I wasn't on either side of that.  I mean let me clarify this by saying, EVERYONE was robbed by that terrible movie Bird Man winning everything.  That thing should have been called Bird Poop, but while American Sniper was fine, it was no Saving Private Ryan.  The thing that makes American Sniper is actually Chris Kyle, any emotion I felt for the movie or the story was actually just emotion I felt for Chris Kyle and his wife.  Bradley Cooper was not bad as Chris Kyle but I really felt like Clint Eastwood kind of missed it.  All the material was there but somehow when he was putting the movie together I felt like Chris Kyle's humanity was lost a little.  If I had to pick between the two I'd stick to the book and not bother with the movie.  J who didn't read the book thought the movie was good.

Let me take you back to when I first picked up the book American Sniper. I had read half way down the first page and I turned to J and said, "I am going to have a problem with this guy."  I had just read the line where he calls Middle Easterners "savages" and it just bothered me.  When people paint an entire group of people with a broad stroke it makes me extremely uncomfortable, especially because I know a lot of Middle Easterns, I even spent a summer in the Middle East and while I'd say that for the most part people in the Middle East are terrible at standing in lines, most Middle Easterners who I've met and extremely generous and kind.  I put the book down for a second and I read some reviews and then I picked the book up again totally prepared to hate Chris Kyle but something happened and by the end of the book my opinion had almost about faced, and honestly almost a love for the man and for his wife and kids had grown, and just deep appreciation for the sacrifices that they went through.  There is never a moment in American Sniper where Christ Kyle doesn't admit to feeling like he is doing right.  There is never a moment where he admits to feeling bad about any of his kills or wishing that he couldn't have killed more people.  There is never really even a moment when he can come to grips with the fact that what he was doing was having seriously bad consequences for himself and his family.  It is crazy and yet that is where I found my most sympathy for Chris Kyle.

I read some places in the media where he was called a psychopath.  I honestly disagree.  The medical definition of a psychopath goes as follows: A person with an antisocial personality disorder, especially one manifested in perverted, criminal, or amoral behavior.

It is true that Chris tells us that he feels no guilt and he has certainly picked a violent profession, but his body tells something else.  It is pretty obvious 2/3 of the way through the book that Kyle was suffering some pretty severe PTSD.  The part in the movie where he refuses to take the shot of the boy holding the rocket launcher really did happen.  Regardless of what he say and the narrative he wants us to believe and probably the narrative he is trying to convince himself of it is pretty obvious that his actions were a taking a toll on him and on his family.

Also part of what makes a psychopath is the desire to engage in amoral behavior and Chris Kyle doesn't see what he is doing as amoral.  In fact the exact opposite is true.  He is burdened with this unrealistic feeling of obligation that if he doesn't stop the enemy that he is responsible for the deaths of the US marines and Seals around him.  He is like the living embodiment of a comic book super hero.  I don't say that in any way to glorify him or what he did, rather I mention it because I think in our Superhero movie and cartoon loving way we often kind of brush over the emotions that would be involved with taking on this sort of task.  People have to feel this obligation to a greater "good" or cause.  They feel that is is there responsibility alone.  They have to justify their own actions to themselves because what is being asked of them is often terrible.  There is a reason Bat Man is called the "Dark" Knight and it isn't because he wears all black and hangs out in a cave.  I do not like the things that Chris Kyle did but I have an understanding of the fact that when our country or any country chooses to go to war that there are people who are actually going to have to kill people.  It is why I don't like war.  It is why I wrote a bunch of letters to senators before we went to Iraq begging, pleading, asking them to reconsider.  But once we went we were there and people were going to die and suddenly people like Chris Kyle become a necessity to us even at the sacrifice of themselves.  I should probably mention at this moment that my father was actually in Iraq Two.  He belonged to a group of army reserve guys who drove big huge rocket launching guns.  We don't really talk about that time very much but I know that while he didn't see the Iraq people as his enemy that he also felt an obligation to the men and woman that he served with and to the country who had asked him to relocate himself into a desert war zone.  "War is hell."  Is difficult for those of us sitting in our air conditioned homes watching wars and conflicts on TV to understand the morality of war or the cost asked to be born on the souls of those sent to fight out the will of Presidents, Kings, Generals, and Majors.  The choices seem so easy or the reactions so harsh and yet we are insulated from the realities.  A lot of people have mentioned on this blog post they had no intention of every reading American Sniper and I guess I can see why, but I have to say if you has a desire to look into the mind of someone being asked to live out sort of our modern war time this a really interesting book.  It might not be for everyone.


  1. I read your blog, but wasn't sure if you saw my comments. And I HAD actually wondered if you watched American Sniper yet. :)

  2. Interesting. I will never read that book or watch that movie, but it's good to read your opinion of it.

  3. I read your blog, too. And I have not read or watched American Sniper. Nice to hear your take on it. But I still don't plan to read or watch it.

  4. I think you added more to this post since you first published it. I actually just now got around to read it. Really glad you shared your thoughts on the book and movie - and the man!

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