American Sniper, American Hero, American Punisher

At the 2015 Academy Awards it was nominated for achievement in film editing, sound editing, sound mixing, writing, best actor, and… one more? Oh yes, best picture. It has become the most successful war-themed movie of all time and was the highest grossing film of 2014. So… why? American Sniper is the modern American warfare movie that we needed (as if we were craving such a thing). There’s no sappy love story, no guilt-free hero worship, and no romantic embraces in front of glorious sunsets. The wars in the Middle-East are mysterious territory to those of us safe at home. We know about PTSD but do we really understand it?  American Sniper is one movie that lays it all down for you clear as day, one traumatic incident at a time.

He began as a rodeo cowboy, enlisting in the Navy Seals after hearing a story on the news about American lives in danger overseas. The next thing you know Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) has signed up, gone through basic training, and is introducing himself to his lovely soon-to-be-wife. Not long after, the planes hit the towers and Kyle is called away to Iraq. He begins as a sniper, protecting his teammates from a distance and becoming known as “the Legend” for his incredible skill. The story of a man who can’t help but protect his own, however, turns into a battle between two snipers as this American soldier faces off against one extremely skilled, eagle-eyed freelancer. Kyle refuses to settle down at home with his wife and kids until this enemy and his partners are dealt with and Chris’ comrades are avenged.

The whole movie is shocking but the worst part is seeing these horrors through Chris’ eyes. Should he kill the kid because he’s holding a grenade? Would killing him save ten Americans? Do you take a father away from his family because he’s helping the wrong people (possibly against his will)? Tough decisions Chris makes in an instant with a calm face and barely a sniffle. As the movie progresses, however, you begin to see that each decision weighs on him a little heavier until he is practically paralyzed by the memories. His wife, Taya (Sienna Miller), fights her own battle between duty and fear; should she stay with someone who chooses country over family and is seemingly unaware of how deeply she fears for his life? Both Cooper and Miller play their roles with drama and intensity. Whether it is Taya crying in a parking lot because Chris’ call was interrupted by gunfire, or it’s Chris’ glazed-over eyes as he relives the chaos, both Cooper and Miller give strong, note-worthy performances.

Every time Chris hears his nickname, “the Legend”, you see a little piece of him die; the name reminds him of all the killing he had to do to earn that heavy title. Chris Kyle is a hero to the other soldiers, but to us he is a man doing what must be done to keep his home strong, proud, and free. Which brings me to my next point: American Sniper may not be about the glory, but it is definitely waving that “Land of the free” flag behind that “Home of the brave” bald eagle. Chris Kyle is an American patriot, putting Country second on the list between God and Family. I would not be surprised if enlistment numbers got a boost thanks to American Sniper’s release.

Interlaced as it may be with pride, free will, and protection of the innocent, American Sniper gives that much-needed glimpse into the life of 21st century soldiers both on the battlefield and at home. They do the job, kill those they must, avenge those they can’t save, and relive it all in the too-quiet confines of home. Bradley Cooper was well-deserving of a nomination this year for turning Chris Kyle into a symbol of bravery. This movie shines a bright spotlight on military families and is one giant thank you to their sacrifice and perseverance. 8/10.

American Sniper trailer.

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