I read Chris Kyle’s autobiography last year, and when I learned that the book was going to be turned into a movie, I was thrilled and a bit skeptical. Clint Eastwood has delivered a movie that exceeded my expectations, a war film that deserves a place beside Saving Private Ryan and Apocalypse, Now. I hope it wins a truck-load of awards.
The pacing is excellent, juxtaposing scenes stateside with the war in Iraq. Bradley Cooper is utterly convincing in this role as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. His performance is nuanced and heart breaking. The battle scenes are riveting. As the credits rolled, the entire crowded theater remained in their seats. No matter his flaws, Chris Kyle is an American hero, and this film is a great tribute to him and the brave men and women who risk their lives everyday defending our freedom.
Chris Kyle’s heart comes across better in the film than it did in the book, the inner conflict between duty and family, and the most emotional scenes of the movie revolve around Kyle’s inner struggle, whether it’s making an agonizing call on the battle field or a phone call to his wife.
There has been a surprising amount of controversy surrounding this film. A few celebrities have condemned it, Michael Moore publicly slamming the film. People have called the movie racist. Kyle experienced war in a way most men never do. He experienced savagery and witnessed atrocities that shaped his outlook on his enemies, people who were actively trying to kill him. He lost close friends in combat. The movie does not depict all Iraqis in a bad light; one of the most intense scenes in the movie does quite the opposite. The fact is, insurgents did melt into the civilian population, using IEDs and snipers to kill American soldiers. The notion that the film rewrites history is ludicrous.
The film is not political; it’s about what happened to the soldiers who were there and how the war stayed with them even when they were home. Whether or not the war in Iraq was justified or not doesn’t matter to the men and women who served in that fight. They carry the scars either way. The film doesn’t go into the justification for the war, doesn’t condone or glorify it. The fact is, war is ugly and mean and bloody and it’s always been that way.
Kyle prioritized his life thus: God, Family, Country. His ability to kill without remorse is chilling to soft civilians like me. I write about heroes, but I’m far from actually being one. But he’ s the guy you want at the gates when the city is under siege, standing on the wall, fighting back.
I plan on rereading the book, and I’m sure I’ll watch the movie again before it leaves theaters. If you plan on seeing only one movie this year, see this one!