I’ll start this post by saying that I have read Chris Kyle’s memoir (see my review), and the movie “American Sniper” contains very little of it. In fact, I didn’t recognize a single significant scene as one that was detailed in the memoir, which gives me the impression that the movie is very much “Hollywood written.”
Warning: if you haven’t seen “American Sniper” yet, there may be spoilers here.
The movie opens with a woman and young boy stepping out from an alley with an RPG as American tanks roll toward them. The cynic in me couldn’t help it: I know they’re fanatical, but would this woman really be that stupid? The tanks are right there; it’s not like they wouldn’t be seen. They’re going to get mowed down before they can throw their bomb.
Before we see what happens, we flash back to Chris’ background. A lot of info had to be crammed in here: Child Chris taking on a bully who’s picking on his brother. A scene with his father. Chris and his brother as rodeo cowboys (Chris is kind of a dickhead). Then a few scenes from his military training, as well as meeting and marrying Taya.
The movie was set up as sort of a four-part series: Tour One through Four. Each tour, some pivotal event occurs that seems to convince Chris he must go back or his buddies will die. (Some of these scenes are very intense.) Each time Chris returns home the viewer can see he’s more distanced from ‘normal’ life. Each time we see more strain on his marriage as well.
Chris (like many like him) is not much of a talker. So to portray this progressive change and the slow creep of PTSD would have been a challenge. In this, the film did an excellent job. This includes a pivotal scene at a barbeque when it’s obvious to everyone that Chris is not completely stable; his response to a shrink afterward shows that he truly believes he can’t help ‘enough’ people unless he’s in the thick of war.
Thank goodness he learned otherwise.
Chris Kyle may be considered a hero for different reasons. For having over 160 confirmed kills. And because he was in a bad place in terms of PTSD and fought his way back (a theme I write about often). But he really became famous not because he wrote a memoir, but because he was killed by a fellow veteran. And that’s why Hollywood made the movie.
Not that I’m complaining… I think shining a light on PTSD by utilizing ‘entertainment value’ means more people begin to understand what our veterans are going through.
But what of Eddie Ray Routh? A veteran also suffering from PTSD. Is it right and just that he spend life in jail with no parole (see recent court case)? I have no idea. I do wonder about Chris’ decision to take the man shooting, especially since it appears he had some suspicions. But guns were so much a part of Chris (there’s a scene in the movie that really hammers home how casually he treated guns), I suspect it’s what he felt he could offer.
In all, a compelling movie. Just expect some blatant Hollywood ‘burnishment.’
P.S. Things I found odd: a scene of Chris running into his brother (who evidently had enlisted as well). We never get any more details about the brother; he seems to have lived his entire life in Chris’ shadow. I also found it odd that Chris could be conversing on a phone with Taya while he’s literally on a rooftop staring down the barrel of his rifle or riding in a tank.