By Lance Neuscheler, Staff Writer
As the credits roll and the packed crowd strolls out of the theater, the whole room is in complete silence. Sound familiar? Probably not, unless you’ve seen Clint Eastwood’s new film “American Sniper,” the film adaption of an autobiography written by Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in United States military history. Many Saegertown students have now seen the film and several were very impressed with how the movie turned out. “As the son of a military member, I can say that American Sniper was a very accurate depiction of what it’s like for a father in the armed forces” said senior Alex Barclay.
Considering that the crowds leaving the movie theater usually burst into conversation as soon as the movie ends, someone who hasn’t seen the movie may ask: what makes this movie so special? Maybe it’s the fact that the movie is a non-fiction biography of a man’s life, packed with mixed emotions and a constant debate over one man’s personal responsibilities. Maybe it’s also the reality that Chris Kyle died in 2013, murdered by one of the many veterans who he was trying to help. The movie’s final scenes, real footage of Chris Kyle’s funeral, certainly bring out emotion, along with respect from many of the audience members.
Amongst the movie’s supporters, however, there have been many critics, including some celebrities, taking shots at the now deceased SEAL. Many people feel not only that Chris Kyle was more of a murderer than hero, but also that the movie glorifies war and promotes racism. Critics back up these claims by highlighting many social media posts by moviegoers who claim that they “want to kill muslims” after watching the film. They also point out that in Kyle’s autobiography, he often refers to his enemies as savages and views them as evil.
In the face of the controversy, it is important to remember that American Sniper was developed as a biographical film to honor Chris Kyle and his family, and not as a war movie. Audience members expecting a hoorah war movie filled with non-stop action may be surprised to find that between the action, there’s a much more personal plot that is the focus of the movie. Regardless of whether or not the United States should have even been in the war in the first place, taking a side was not the film’s intended message. There is heavy emphasis on Kyle’s internal struggle to decide what he is more responsible for: his family or his country. The movie also delves into not only Kyle’s personal Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, but how it affects other veterans as well as their families and how Kyle adapts to life after being discharged. And it further includes his work with troubled and disabled veterans, which eventually led to his death.
As for Chris Kyle himself, he can hardly be seen as an evil man. Kyle was viewed as a good father, and a friend to many people. After his return to America, he worked with many veterans who were struggling, and brought some normality back to their lives. He was bravely willing to repeatedly risk his life to save United States troops and defend his country. While “savages” is not the most correct term for his enemy overseas, Kyle is a man who was trained to see no gray area, only black and white. Thrust into the situations that he was, Chris Kyle had no choice but to be desensitized to death and destruction and had to make the best out what happened in the war. Kyle had to see the enemy as evil, and hesitation could result in his troops being wounded or killed.
“It was my duty to shoot the enemy, and I don’t regret it. My regrets are for the people I couldn’t save: Marines, soldiers, buddies. I’m not naive, and I don’t romanticize war. The worst moments of my life have come as a SEAL. But I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job,” said Chris Kyle in his autobiography. Before you criticize Chris Kyle for valuing his soldiers above the enemy, ask yourself: if someone you know was unknowingly about to be killed, would you let it happen, or would you take the shot?
Journalism Adviser, Saegertown Jr. Sr. High School