As far as Chris is concerned, the war he’s eventually asked to participate in is a simple one: there are a bunch of violent savages over there, and it’s America’s job to go over there and kill them before they kill us.
Based on what I’ve read, this seems like a fairly accurate portrait of Kyle’s mindset, but the problem is that the film itself seems to share the same mentality. It oversimplifies an incredibly complex war for the sake of permitting American Sniper to double as a propaganda film; the American equivalent of that fictional German sniper biopic featured at the end of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds. In this film’s version of the Iraq War, every person who looks like they might be a terrorist is a terrorist, no innocent civilians are killed and American lives are the only lives that matter.
Fear of this being exactly the case is why I have not been able to stomach going to see American Sniper. I don’t get into politics (of this sort) often on MovieByte, but once in a while I can’t help myself and I hope you will indulge me this once. As a thought exercise, can you tell me the last legally declared war the U.S. fought in? Many answers may have sprung into your mind, but if you are an average United States citizen, I would wager you did not get the right one. The correct answer is our declarations of war upon Japan, Germany, Italy, Bulgaria, Hungary, and Romania during World War II. Can you tell me why then, during a peace time, we are celebrating a sniper who kills people in the name of wars that do not legally have any standing?
There are at least a dozen scenes (and that’s a conservative estimate) in which another character tells Kyle what an incredible hero/living legend/amazing person he is, which feels like overkill. This gets particularly bad towards the film’s conclusion, as Eastwood spends the last fifteen minutes or so offering a series of scenes which accomplish nothing more than saying, “Wow, Chris Kyle is just the best!” Most Great Man biopics have at least a handful of scenes along these lines, but American Sniper overdoes them for the sake of assuring the audience that its view of Kyle is by no means complicated or anything less than worshipful. It doesn’t trust the audience to simply view Kyle’s actions and assess his character for themselves; it literally tells us how we’re supposed to feel about nearly everything he does.
Sorry, I don’t have the stomach for this jingoistic non-sense. As far as I am concerned and as far as I can tell, Chris Kyle was a terrorist, fighting under terrorists, trying to uphold the U.S. empire’s foreign interests in the most morally reprehensible way possible.
Thank you for indulging me this aside into politics. This is Libertarian TJ, signing off.