2nd Amendment to the Constitution of The United States of America

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

"I ask sir, what is the militia? It is the whole people except for a few politicians."
- George Mason (father of the Bill of Rights and The Virginia Declaration of Rights)

Sunday, January 18, 2015

American Sniper

Warning!: Spoilers

This is a quick review on the movie American Sniper.  I have not read the book (yet) but I am aware of the Chris Kyle story, as are many who pursue the same hobby and interests as myself. 

Went to see American Sniper yesterday with some friends that I shoot and camp with that are collectively known to ourselves as "The Posse".  Apparently we weren't alone as the movie has grossed over $100 million in just a few days.  Just so you get an idea of our point of view and possible biases viewing this let me break down some of our demographics:

  • All 5 of us are veterans.
  • 4 of us served together at various times in the National Guard. 
  • 3 of us have served at least tour overseas since 9/11, 1 as a DA civilian.
  • 4 of our group have completed Infantry training. 
  • 1 of our group is a veteran of the Ranger Regiment

That being said, we obviously have a pro America bias going into this film.  That's fine.  That is who this movie is made for.  If you are a left wing, anti-war, flag burning, hug-the-enemy-and-he-will-hug-us-back type...simply don't watch this film.  Although my eyes are tinted by red, white and blue, I know enough to see that the events as portrayed in this film are scripted and crafted to present a story from a certain point of view, as are all movies.  If you are a pro-death penalty proponent, don't go see Dead Man Walking....Not a big Notre Dame fan, skip Rudy.  Get the idea?  All of these ass wipes who came out even before the general release of the film condemning it need to go pound sand and ask themselves if that they already knew that they would not like the movie ahead of time, why waste the time to watch it?

Chris Kyle

For those of you that have been living under a rock or on the liberal left, Chris Kyle was a Navy SEAL that was officially credited with 160 confirmed kills. although by his own log the number was much higher but confirmed targets must be correlated by a witness which was not always possible.  That puts him squarely up there with the top of the list of American snipers.  Long story short, he got out of the Navy after the war, went home to Texas and worked as a security consultant and trainer (as many SPECOPS guys are apt to do) and was tragically murdered in Feburary of 2013 at a shooting range along with a friend by a 25 year old Marine that they were taking out to try and help out with supposed PTSD issues.  The trial for that murder has not yet happened. His story might of been a footnote to history save for the fact that he did pen a best selling book, aptly named American Sniper, which generated a defamation lawsuit by former Frogman turned wrestler turned movies star turned DOUCHEBAG Jesse Ventura that continued past Kyle's death and landed in the lap of his widow, and you got a story to grab the attention of any American patriot.

Chris Kyle 

The movie

I think going into this having NOT already read the book cleared me of a lot of bias about what to expect. What resulted was a somewhat mixed reception by myself (the reactions of my cohorts I will save for a bit later as we compared notes) where I understood where director Clint Eastwood was heading with the plot and could tell where elements were thrown in, removed or simplified for the sake of weaving the story, cinematography or simply filling in details.

Bradley Cooper on the set of American Sniper

From the get go the movie grips and pulls the viewer in.  This is in no small part due to the efforts of actor Bradley Cooper (American Hustle, The Hangover 1-3, Wedding Crashers, The A Team) who is totally absorbed in his role.  From physically transforming his body into an impressively solid and commanding physique to his Texan drawl and constant grasp of Kyle's commitment to selfless service he really does make this movie happen for me.

Again the movie pulls you in from the start, commencing with a life or death choice that none of us really want to face before Eastwood snaps us back to some background on Kyle's upbringing and training before resolving the opening shots conflict....defining how the character will be perceived going forward.   The movie attempts to show Kyle as a man who is in conflict with his dedication to his family and to what he believes is a just fight against evil and takes the loss of American lives very personally and is unwillingly thrust into the limelight and attention of other service members due to his skills.  Jokingly referred to as "The Legend" by his SEAL team mates and more respectfully and earnestly by the Marines he protects on overwatch duty from behind his sniper rifle, it seems to be a title and position Kyle is uncomfortable with.   In one scene when Kyle is home between tours he is in a tire store getting service when a Marine comes up and introduces himself a somebody that Kyle personally saved in Fallujah and basically fawns all over him going so far as to tell Kyle's kid that their Daddy was a hero..something about that scene made me uncomfortable and squirm a bit in my seat.

Throughout the movie this entire pull between his duty and his family becomes more polarizing and the rift between him and his wife widens until another decisive event at the end similar to the one that starts the film cues the viewer that Kyle has had enough and snaps him back to his family.  This resolution is somewhat colluded by one last scene where, in Hollywood grandstanding fashion, he has to make one remarkable shot to take care of one last bit of business so he can go home knowing the Marines he overwatched would be "safe" and a no holds barred final battle, in the middle of a Shamal dust storm to boot.

Overall, despite the somber overtones it is a flag waving drama much in the same vane as Lone Survivor was (also about SEALS, as was Zero Dark Thirty...and Act of Valor... and Tears of the Sun... Hollyweird does love the SEALS).  And you know what, I'm totally cool with that.  Maybe what this country needs from time to time is a little flag waving in cinema depicting some of America's finest doing what they do best.  Some critics will obviously point this out in the same way that The Green Berets was over the top patriotic at a time when the war in Vietnam was a decidedly unpopular affair. The thing is nowadays, the war wanes in popularity and support, but the support for the people fighting it has stayed high.

Yes, there are cliches in this movie, as in most movies, especially war movies when death is omnipresent in many scenes.  You have the life and death decision involving civilians, you have the evil beyond belief enemy (actually thats true more than a cliche), you have the military grabassery that is a bond of service (Actually a lot of truth there as well) and you obviously have the training montage at the beginning of the film as establishing scenes.  Being that I am a vet and a "gun guy" there were a few glaring technical gaffes that many people will not notice but seem all the more odd to somebody like me watching, Again, as I state above I realize many of these are put in for emphasis of certain points in the story, to enable the camera to get a comprehensive shot for the film, to compress time or due to a person or event being a composite of several people or events in the book.  After the movie my friends and I compared notes and came up with a few things that stood out to us:

  • In many of the scenes troops are shown in traveling positions much to close to what you would normally encounter (to avoid grouping targets for the enemy)
  • Kyle's "spotters" in his positions neither spot nor actually provide any security for him.  One actually plays games in the middle of the battlefield on a gameboy thing and tells him before a shot "you mess this up and they will burn your ass and send you to Leavenworth".
  • The scenes at Kyle's sniper training were laughable, with guys who would of been chosen based on their natural marksmanship skills were missing targets at 100 yards or so way to the side, with Kyle being one of the better shots but only able to make 8" groups at that range, until it comes time shoot a rattlesnake in which he is able to shoot the 2" wide snake with one shot.
  • There is a scene where an areal reconnaissance drone flies over Fallujah (or whatever city they were supposed to be in) at only a few hundred feet, done so they could pan from it to the ground easily.  A drone like that would be high overhead with its cameras able to still make out ground targets, to keep the drone out of small arms danger and also to not alert the enemy to its presence. 
  • Ranges spoken of in reference and the distances depicted in the movie were often way off. 
  • Air support seems to be a (dramatic) afterthought. 
  • At the end of the movie Kyle is shown using very poor weapons safety by pointing a gun at his wife in jest and then simply putting on a shelf with kids in the room before leaving.  

Again, most viewers will never notice these things, but its stuff we noticed, and I bet a few of you did as well.  I know enough to turn off my brain when necessary to enjoy a movie and it did not detract itself from my viewing experience.

One last thing, the ending.  Much has been written on social media about how quiet theaters are when this movie ends.  Mine was except for some guy in the rear that said "God Bless America" a couple of times...it sounded akward.  This is no fluke.  Eastwood ends the move rather abruptly with a scene where Kyle seems to have his life back where he wants it to be and leaving to help some Marine that has PTSD. His wife watches as he leaves with this young man with a look of concern on her face, and why she would have it on this particular occasion is left unanswered.  The film fades to black with a statement that Kyle was killed that day, and then goes to actual footage of his 200 mile procession on Rt 35 in Texas from his hometown to Dallas and scenes of his memorial service at AT&T stadium.  The credits then roll without sound.  In effect, Eastwood has drawn you into a wonderful memorial of this sailor's life and triumphs and allowed each and every viewer to pay their own private respects at the end, if they chose to.  A lot of people would not of know about Chris Kyle's life prior to this.  Matter of fact, a woman sitting next to our group let out a audible gasp and made comment when the frame with his death announcement came up, like she had no clue that the movie was about somebody that was dead. I bet there were a lot of similar reactions across the nation this weekend.

Eastwood nailed that ending, I was actually humbled to watch this movie and to be a part of the shared experience that that packed theater obviously felt at that time.

Oscar worthy....hell yes.

Go see it.

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