“American Sniper” (Clint Eastwood directing) was a movie’s movie in its idealized depiction of the love story between Chris Kyle and his wife Taya (played by Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller). They were essentially the protagonists of a movie whose antagonist, war, loomed like a distant party crasher: Kyle insisted on going out on multiple tours to Iraq as a Navy SEAL between 2003-2009. Kyle’s tours were punctuated by intermittent returns home to Taya, including for the birth of his son and daughter. These scenes are mostly poignant and heartwarming, juxtaposed by post traumatic stress, anger, resentment, and abandonment issues. The film definitely lionizes Kyle and attempts to delve into the fractured psyche of a man who’s seen and felt too much.
Kyle was a skilled sniper with a heart of gold and as a character in this film, his motivation is love of country and hatred of his enemy, and a desire for vengeance for the September 11, 2001 attacks. (The scene is captured as Chris and Taya watch in angered helplessness on CNN as the Twin Towers are attacked by commercial planes. (This scene definitely helps us ascertain and anchor the character motivation of our protagonist.)
On a side note, the training of Navy SEALS is certainly rigorous and impressive.
The movie is a conglomeration between Navy SEAL-confirmed statistics on kills, anecdotal data, factual accounts, Kyle’s memoir, American Sniper (2013), and screenwriter Jason Hall.
The questions raised for me during the film were unwieldy and are mostly unanswered. The definite irony was that Kyle survived so much and lived to tell the tale only to be killed back in his home state of Texas in 2013 by Eddie Ray Routh, another veteran who he was trying to help. The film briefly closes on a doomed encounter that the two men were embarking upon on the fateful day of Kyle’s death, viewed upon with suspicion by his wife. Readers should note that this man, Eddie Ray Routh, has not yet stood trial for the murder.
My questions: Was Routh in any way connected to the Iraqi insurgents and other top dogs that Kyle killed? Was Kyle’s 2013 Texas murder the culmination of an insurgent plot? Was Routh a suicidal pawn, brainwashed by enemy insurgents or their sympathizers? The film really serves as a starting point for deeper questions about terrorism, the Navy SEALS, top military and state brass, and American policy in general.