John Nolte explains why so many people are going to see it.
“American Sniper” opens during the worst days of Fallujah in Iraq. Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is the eye in the sky watching his fellow warriors through a sniper scope and protecting them when necessary with the kind of precision shooting that will quickly make him a legend (and target).
Through a door, an Iraqi woman emerges with a boy who can’t be older than 10. They walk towards a group of Marines. She hands the boy a large grenade. Kyle has been told by his superiors that what happens next is his call.
Before Kyle can make what seems like an impossible choice (“I’ve never seen such evil,” Kyle says later), Eastwood and his screenwriter Jason Hall take us back in time with one of the best flashback sequences you’ll ever see. The economy is brilliant, and in just a few minutes we see what made Chris Kyle Chris Kyle: His Christian father’s strict but loving moral code, his days as a rodeo rider, his romance with Taya (a terrific Sienna Miller) — the woman who will become his faithful wife, and why two pre-9/11 terrorist attacks on American embassies led Kyle to become a Navy SEAL at the ripe old age of 30.
The rest of the story, which is every bit as compelling (this might be the best-paced film Eastwood has ever made), centers on Kyle’s harrowing four tours of duty and his troubled home life. This is a man deeply in love with his country (“I’d die for this country. America is the greatest country in the world.”) and his young family. He can only be truly faithful to one. “God, country, family,” are the man’s priorities.
“American Sniper” is refreshingly told only from Kyle’s point of view. He reminds a doubting comrade that we’re fighting these “evil f*****g savages” (terrorists) in Iraq so we don’t have to fight them in San Diego. And Eastwood doesn’t flinch from showing these evil f*****g savages for the evil f*****g savages they are. You won’t soon forget watching terrorist mastermind Zarqawi’s chief enforcer, a monster nicknamed The Butcher, slowly torture and murder a young boy with a power drill.
War is ugly and it’s not pretty watching our guys kick in doors. But there are bad guys behind those doors, and no matter how bad those guys might be, Eastwood makes sure the audience knows Americans don’t carry power drills or take lives out of any motive other than self-defense.
There is nothing even close to moral equivalence in “America Sniper,” only the truth: that there is no equivalence between the barbarians who target the innocent and the American heroes who target those who target the innocent.
[…]The Big Emotional Question that drives much of “American Sniper” is whether or not, after it’s all over, Kyle still believes in who he is and what he’s done. The film’s best moment comes when that question is answered, when we learn just what is that is tearing Kyle up inside. “I will stand before my Creator and justify every shot,” he tells a military therapist.
You see, it’s not Iraq or Bush or the military or the mission or even those 160 confirmed kills. What’s eating Kyle alive is that he didn’t do more — didn’t save more United States Marines.
This movie made $90 million on its opening weekend. Why aren’t there more movies like this made in Hollywood?
I’m a big fan of war movies – have been since I was a kid. I like war movies that tell the stories of famous battles a lot, but my favorites are movies that show why we have to fight, and the fundamental goodness of fighting evil on the battlefield, when we are threatened by enemies who cannot be dealt with any other way. My favorite war movies are the ones where there are clear-cut villains, like the German Nazis or the Japanese Imperialists or the North Korean communists. I think Islamic extremists belong in there. Why are people so cautious about celebrating our armed forces for confronting evil as clear-cut as any we have had to face in the past?
I really don’t know what’s gone wrong with this country when we celebrate artists, musicians, actors and athletes more than people in the military, the police and the clandestine services. When I was a young man, I would spend hours making and building model jet fighters and drawing pictures of all kinds of military vehicles. Model jet fighters hung from my ceiling. I had maps of all the allied advances during World War 2 on my wall. I read books like this one, which tells the story of every man who won the medal of honor in World War 2. And when I got older, I read military history and military biographies. For me, the idea of stopping a violent evil person has always been a good thing.
You can read more about Chris Kyle on military.com.