American Sniper, Bradley Cooper, Chris Kyle, Chris Kyle Sienna Miller, Clint Eastwood, Taya Kyle
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Screenplay by: Jason Hall
Based on the Book By: Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim Defelice
Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle
Sienna Miller as Taya Kyle
I’ve been writing about Chris Kyle Since June of 2012 when I read an account of Kyle published in Marcus Luttrell’s book: Service: A Navy SEAL at War. That article became the first of a series:
Chris Kyle: America Dodges A Bullet
Chris Kyle: The Universe Has a Second Laugh
Chris Kyle: He’ll Have The Last Laugh
After seeing American Sniper in a theater full of Texans on the first night of its general release (01-16-15)–I can think of no more appropriate venue–I can confidently say:
(1) If Clint Eastwood never directs another movie, this one will secure his reputation for all time.
(2) American Sniper is truly good art, and a classic not only of its genre, but of all genres.
(3) The movie, without so much as alluding to him, will sink Jesse Ventura’s reputation and public persona below Mariana Trench depths.
There is a chasm of difference between mere entertainment and good art. Good art stands the test of time. It is an example of the best of its genre, the best human beings are capable of producing. While it might have been made differently, it cannot be made better. It teaches and delights, elevating the human spirit and showing us what we can be at our best.
American Sniper is all of that and more.
Eastwood and Jason Hall have adapted Kyle’s book to the screen in keeping with the qualities that make epic poems and legends resonate in our hearts and minds. Strength, honor, determination, honesty, self-sacrifice, and above all, love, love so great one is willing to give his life that his country and others might live. When Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, says he fights because America is the greatest country in the world and he’d willingly give his life for it, there is not the least bit of doubt, no smirk at a corny, jingoistic line. We’re seeing the real thing, the genuine article. Its plain-spoken honesty is at once touching and inspiring. When Kyle tells a fellow SEAL they’re fighting there, killing “fucking savages” so they don’t have to fight them in America, only the most hopeless leftist could fail to see the truth of what Kyle believed and fought for.
The movie takes viewers through Kyle’s decision to join the Navy at the age of 30, inspired by patriotism, through his marriage to Taya, played by Sienna Miller, through his four tours and more than 160 confirmed kills, and through his return, in body and spirit to Taya and their children, and his murder while trying to help a disturbed veteran.
I’ve not listed the other actors, because in a very real sense, this movie is about Chris and Taya. Readers interested in the rest of the cast, and a fine cast it is, can take the first link.
Eastwood’s skills as a director are considerable. He does not descend to any conventional action movie tricks, such as close up, shaky camera work, fuzzy action sequences, fast or slow motion editing tricks and other cheap stunts. The reality of war is shown in all of its horror, nobility and necessity. Particularly effective are multiple close ups of Cooper on his sniper rifle as he identifies targets and fires, and the effect it has on him.
It’s obvious the movie had excellent military advisors. Weapons, tactics, uniforms and equipment, all the details that make the difference between a quick knockoff and a lovingly crafted work of art are apparent.
The movie is perfectly paced, interspersing the occasional flashback with current action. Between each of Kyle’s tours, viewers see him, of necessity, pulling further away from Taya, and the scene where he was on a satellite phone with her when a firefight broke out–it actually happened–tears at the heart.
This is the heart of the movie, and the story of the American warrior: a man of peace ready to sacrifice himself that all may know peace. For the survivors, perhaps even more than those that gave the last, full measure of devotion, there is a price to be paid, one last battle to be fought. As we are discovering, in the current war, a war the President of the United States cannot bring himself to fully acknowledge or fight, the price is extraordinarily high.
Leftists will, without question, hate the movie. There is, in American Sniper, no moral equivalence. Americans are the good guys, the terrorists are the bad buys, and very, very bad guys they are, fully living up to Kyle’s epithet of “fucking savages.” It works because, to those willing to see the evidence before their eyes, the attacks in France being only the most recent evidence of the evil abroad in the world, there can be no doubt of the truth of the portrayal. The terrorists aren’t misunderstood, they don’t have understandable grievances, Gitmo isn’t forcing them to torture and murder children with electric drills. They are unadulterated evil, brutal barbarians without a trace of morality or nobility, and Kyle and his fellow soldiers do their best to fight it.
Blessed with the skill and the will to achieve in war what few men are capable of achieving, Kyle found himself at exactly the right place at exactly the right time to become the most prolific sniper in American military history. It was the circumstances of combat that allowed many American pilots to become WWII fighter aces. So it was with Kyle. It is unlikely that those circumstances will be repeated, and equally unlikely anyone will surpass Kyle’s accomplishments.
Even though every viewer knows Kyle survived his four tours, Eastwood skillfully builds suspense, and eventually allows Kyle to feel the anguish Taya felt, waiting for the phone call that didn’t come until after he left the military and returned home. In the crucible of combat, Kyle finally realized it was his time to leave war behind, but that journey home was harder than fighting evil.
There aren’t sufficient words to describe Cooper’s performance. Creating a fictional character is, relatively speaking, less difficult than creating a real man, particularly a man of Kyle’s stature. Even Taya Kyle was amazed at Cooper’s assumption of Kyle’s appearance, mannerisms and character. Kyle’s soft-spoken, self-deprecating demeanor and spot-on Texas accent had my fellow Texans chuckling in appreciation at several points in the movie. Cooper deserves the Best Actor Oscar, but will almost certainly not receive it because American Sniper does not disparage our military or our nation. It provides no refuge for those that do.
Sienna Miller, despite having far less screen time, creates a Taya Kyle suggested by the book: a strong, patient, and loving woman, as fierce in her love of America as in her love of Chris Kyle, the kind of woman Texans know well and honor.
American Sniper is epic adventure, following in the path of The Odyssey, and other mythic tales. It is said that only in the most desperate times are Americans at their best, and that in such times, men rise to the occasion. Chris Kyle was one such, and the movie need engage in no hyperbole to demonstrate it.
The final credits of the movie are scenes of Kyle’s 200 mile, February 12, 2013 funeral procession from Cowboy Stadium to the Texas State Cemetery in Austin. On that cold, rainy day, untold thousands of Texans lined the route and flew innumerable American flags in tribute to a fellow Texan and a true American hero. Not a person in the theater stirred or spoke. There was scarcely a dry eye in the house, and silence as everyone, reluctantly, quietly left.
Chris Kyle fought for us all, so that we don’t have to fight, in America, those that would gleefully kill us. Bradley Cooper, Clint Eastwood, Sienna Miller and the cast and crew of American Sniper have crafted a fitting memorial, and a reminder of who and what we must be.
As General George Patton said:
It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.
Let us give thanks for Chris and Taya Kyla, and let us pray that such men–and women–will always, when we need them, live.
UPDATE: 01-17-15 2040 CST: According to Deadline Hollywood, American Sniper took in $30.5 million on its Friday opening night. This is a record for opening day for any January movie, and more than any Clint Eastwood film has ever taken in on an entire weekend. It is expected to make at least $80 million over the opening weekend.
We’ll see this one this week.
What a heartfelt review this is. Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts so warmly. I’ve not seen it yet, still not available in my area, but plan to as soon as it is showing.
Mike McDaniel said:
Welcome to SMM and thanks. You won’t be disappointed.
I have yet to see the movie but have no doubt it will be great. What I am a bit uncomfortable with is the idea that it’s a true representation of the true Kyle or that we should take something away from this fictional account and somehow hold it against a real person. Like Audie Murphy before him I have no doubt that Kyle is a hero and a great soldier but that doesn’t prevent him from having faults. Now Kyle is more of a comic book character than a person and that’s sad.
Mike McDaniel said:
Welcome to SMM and thanks for your comment. Actually, the movie is so good in large part because Eastwood and Cooper succeeded in capturing the real Chris Kyle. Of course, no movie can capture the totality of a man’s life in a 145 minutes, but judging the content of the movie on Kyle’s book, and judging from the comments of Taya Kyle and Kyle’s closest friends and family, the movie is uncannily accurate, not a comic book portrayal at all. I’ll be interested to hear your thoughts after you’ve had the chance to see the movie.
I saw the movie last night in a filled theater. An over powering experience that ended in silence as we filed out.
Dixie Moore said:
Mike, you’ve outdone yourself, again.
I read so many of your blogs and seldom take time to answer but I just had to take this minute.
A group of us from the Patriot Guard went on Thursday night. First, the movie was advertised as opening on Friday so the Thursday showing wasn’t known about except to those of us who were looking for the Friday times. Yet, the theater was almost full.
Second, those of us in the PGR are either Blue Star (family of active duty, like myself), Gold Star (family of a deceased active duty) or veterans.
My goodness, everything you wrote went through our minds throughout that movie!
From your take on what HEROES they really are, to the effects on their families, to the anguish we must tolerate from Hollywood and especially our current President (oh, how I wish my boy wouldn’t re-enlist under this President).
Thank you so much for your review.
As always, your loyal reader!
Mike McDaniel said:
It’s great to hear from you again, as always. Thanks for your kind words.
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