MESSAGE IN THE MOVIES
Photo By Warner Brothers
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller.
After America fought (and lost) the War in Vietnam in the sixties and seventies, there was a real need to put some time behind us before we could begin to deal with the real pain of war veterans. It was the last major military engagement with a national draft; the war itself created the pejorative labels of Hawks (pro-war) and Doves (anti-war) and a level of protest that tore families apart.
Now that we have an all-volunteer armed forces (and more respect for the men and women who serve) as well as a greater awareness of Post Traumatic Shock Disorder as well as the emotional and physical price to be paid with each tour of duty, there seems to be a level of civil conversation that brings out the best in our writers and artists as we reflect upon our involvements in Iraq and Afghanistan.
American Sniper is a testament to these ethically complex times. Based on the memoirs of Chris Kyle (Cooper), a Navy SEAL sniper with a record number of 160 confirmed kills, it is both a brilliant pro-war and anti-war movie.
The film deftly blends Chris’ military service with family history, including his courtship and marriage to Taya (Miller). Receiving the accolades of his comrades in arms (and the nickname “Legend”) for his skill in protecting Marines from his perch on the rooftops in Iraq, each tour of duty leaves Chris more broken and distant when he is stateside with his family.
Director Clint Eastwood (along with his regular cinematographer Tom Stern and great editing from Joel Cox and Gary Roach) delivers exciting combat scenes while also bringing forth the best from his actors in the quiet domestic moments.
The reasons that people cite for choosing to serve in the military can embrace the highly virtuous (to protect folks from bad people) and the banal (to blow stuff up) and Eastwood’s film lets us see both sides of the coin.
The movie is at its best as it allows us to get inside of Chris’ head as he considers whether or not to take a shot at a suspected enemy. Is that woman hiding a weapon under her clothing? Will that boy pick up that missile? How much collateral damage is required to do the right thing in a combat zone?
The film is casually profane in language and moderately graphic in violence, but I believe that it is also compassionate and moving. American Sniper is that rare example of popular filmmaking that also gives you something to think about; it is one R-rated film that I hope parents will see with their older youth and then talk about later.
Four halos: A truthful portrayal of war in the 21st Century and the price that is paid by the men and women who serve.
Two pitchforks: Pervasive swearing, some sexual innuendos, and a lot of violent death.
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Thanks, Bruce, for an insightful review of this film. I too felt that it portrayed the ugliness of war and the angst of a call to duty to serve one's country in defending what it stands for. While I have always felt myself to be moderately but not blindly patriotic, this film deepened my patriotism without glorifying the violence of war (despite what some critics have said).
- Brad Call
While I agree with nearly all of Bruce's review of the film American Sniper, I find his suggestion that the language was casually profane a bit of a stretch.
- Pastor Gary Fitzgerald
As a survivor of three tours in Nam, I find the comment of "WE LOST" particularly disparaging. It is evident that this person was not "there". I have seen the move American Sniper. I was transported back to the jungle looking at potential targets. I really thought I had finally crossed the threshold of no more "dreams". I was wrong. It took me and Prayer Teams the better part of a week for me to be on solid ground again. My faith and strength from GOD is what keeps me going. A lot of vets I know are a part of the family of God and a lot are not. We all still need the prayers of the faithful.
- Frank McAtee
Rev. Bruce Batchelor-Glader
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