Every negative review I have read about American Sniper focuses on one thing, war propaganda. It seems that if you show an American flag and Texans in a movie everyone assumes it’s an overly patriotic depiction about how great the US is. This angers me so much because this movie tackled so many heavy themes and these critics chose to focus on a very small aspect in the film.
Granted, in the beginning of the film Chris Kyle joins the military because he loves the country and says it’s his duty. As the story and protagonist progress, however, this view is warped. Chris Kyle at the beginning of the movie and the end are two completely different people. They both say the same Army recruiter lines about honor and duty but the intelligent viewer can see that the later Kyle doesn’t really mean it.
He says the things he did were his duty and honorable after four tours in Iraq and in reality he’s trying to convince himself that his actions were. Alone with himself stateside he has to rationalize what he did and that is the only way.
This leads to my second point which is this film’s beautiful depiction of soldiers trying to assimilate to everyday life after what they’ve done. One of my favorite scenes in the film illustrates this. The camera is behind a television set focusing on Kyle who is sitting alone in his living room staring intently at the screen while we hear explosions, bullet fire and screams. As the camera moves from behind the television to Kyle’s point of view we see the reflection of Kyle sitting down in the black screen. The sounds were in his head.
The film does not condone death; it seeks to illustrate the struggle of those who have to kill. It shows a man being torn between what he feels is expected of him and his massive guilt.
That is a central criticism of the film, people think that it supports killing and depicts all Iraqis as evil. Each time I hear this I wonder if they saw the same movie I did. Every time Kyle pulls the trigger we see in his eyes indecision before and regret after. Maybe this was too subtle and more unintelligent viewers wanted something blatant.
Perhaps they got up to use the restroom during the scene in which Kyle (at this time known as “the Legend” for his number of kills) is talking to a fellow veteran.
The man says, “I wish I could be called the Legend,” and Kyle responds with, “That’s a title you don’t want.”
This film does not seek to show the politics of the war in Iraq, nor does it seek to prove that killing is justified. At its center this film wants to show viewers a single man’s massive inner conflicts much like Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Whether the actual Chris Kyle felt this way doesn’t matter to me because the film, like all art, is its own entity.