1. The advertising for the film was misleading. I saw the trailer for American Sniper and thought it was going to be a movie primarily about a man trying to recover from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder after his tours of duty in Iraq. Instead it was a war movie primarily about various military engagements and the role in the war of an American sniper who became a legend because he killed so many people.
2. All Iraqi people are evil in American Sniper. They colluded with the ‘enemy’. They force children to throw grenades. They use electric drills to amputate people. We don’t meet the thousands of Iraqis who fought alongside the Americans or the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians the Americans killed. The one Iraqi family who invites the soldiers to supper turns out to have a cache of arms upstairs which our hero discovers halfway through the meal.
3. The movie glorified guns to such an extent that I wondered whether the film had been financed by the National Rifle Association. Chris Kyle the sniper is taught to use guns by his father as a young boy. After his recovery from PTSD Kyle takes his own son out hunting to give him his first experience in Kyle’s own words, “of stopping a beating heart.” Our hero gets sexual with his wife by holding a gun up to her and ordering her to take off her pants. He helps Iraq war vets who have been wounded by taking them out to ranges to shoot guns and in the vets’ words, “get their balls back.” (You restore your manhood by shooting guns?)
*Note- The widow of Chris Kyle, the man on whom the movie American Sniper is based, did speak at a 2013 National Rifle Association leadership forum in support of 2nd amendment rights.
4. American Sniper doesn’t paint a realistic picture of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Our hero experiences a miraculous cure from PTSD. When Chris Kyle comes home from Iraq he is spooked by loud noises, attacks the family dog, can’t communicate with his wife and is sent to see a psychiatrist. Then miraculously he is cured, but we don’t see how that happened or what the process involved. At the end of the movie when Kyle is killed by a fellow army veteran suffering from PTSD Clint Eastwood the director chooses to just write the words on the screen and not to show us that scene. Eastwood has no problem showing us the bodies of Kyle’s Iraqi victims, including women and children ripped apart by bullets but we aren’t shown Kyle’s death caused by a fellow vet with PTSD.
5. The role of religion in the movie is concerning . Chris Kyle carries a New Testament into battle. The Old Testament with its countless wars and a God who is sometimes portrayed as angry, might have been more appropriate, but as he kills more than 160 people Kyle carries the gospel stories about the Prince of Peace in his breast pocket, the accounts of Jesus who instructed his followers to love their enemies and forgive them 70 times 7. In the movie when a psychiatrist asks Kyle if he is troubled about the number of human beings who have died by his hand he says he will meet his Creator at the end of his life with a clear conscience about those he killed.
I found the movie American Sniper troubling. I am even more troubled by its huge popularity with the American public. The Arizona movie complex where we saw it was showing it every hour in two different large theatres and every performance was sold out. I almost wish I hadn’t gone to see American Sniper. I feel like my presence in the theatre suggests I support the message of the movie. I don’t.
Other posts about violent movies……