American Sniper does something modern movies rarely do anymore; it presents us with a protagonist who has no doubts about the righteousness of his actions. At times, Chris Kyle was appalled at the sickening choice he had to make, but he never doubted that his choice was the right one in the circumstances. In the end he was ready to meet his maker and explain every one of his kills.
That’s not to say that I would have made the same choices. I would have stayed home after the third tour; I would have been moved by my wife’s pleading and my children’s need. But I found this movie persuasive anyway, for I have no tolerance for wishy-washy morality or contrived moral ambiguity. As Heinlein wrote, a leader might be mistaken, but he must never be uncertain. If it were the only quality this movie had, I would appreciate American Sniper for its bold portrayal of Kyle’s unwavering sense of duty.
But it’s not. This movie has many other fine qualities: Bradley Cooper’s performance as Chris Kyle is phenomenal; the direction by Clint Eastwood is flawless; the dialogue has not a single weak moment; the interjection of the troubled home life is perfectly paced; the sound design and editing are disturbingly realistic; and the editing is tight but not frenetic. True, the fake baby so scorned by leftist haters sticks out as a bad prop, but it leaves us with a superb movie nonetheless.
And then there’s the ending.
It’s part of the legend of Chris Kyle that he was murdered by a disturbed vet early in 2013, so it’s not a spoiler to mention it. However, I won’t describe how that historical fact was handled by the director, for that would indeed spoil the most touching moment in the movie. I’ll just say that I didn’t imagine it would be done the way Eastwood did it, and leave you with the pleasure of discovering it for yourself. I have known for a long time that Eastwood is a good director. But this proves him to be a master cinematic storyteller.
This movie is artistically top-shelf. True Believing leftists fault American Sniper for making a hero out of a killer, but they didn’t level the same criticism at The Imitation Game’s portrayal of Alan Turing. I suspect it is because it cast Turing’s homosexuality in a positive light, which they like, whereas American Sniper portrays certain conservative positions in a positive light. As such, their objection is idealogical, not artistic, which some of them, such as Seth Rogen, implicitly admit.
Most everyone who reads my blog, watches my videos, or knows me personally knows that I’m a libertarian. It distresses me to see the war machine used as cynically as it is for profit. I am grateful that it has, along the way, provided me and my loved ones with security from outside invaders. I am grateful for the individuals who take the risks they do to provide that security, and I honor those who lost their lives doing it. I just wish that the war makers didn’t extract payment from us at gunpoint, for with a monopolistic producer of any good or service, including security, there is no way to assess its true cost. The cost is just whatever the war makers decide it should be. If security production were subject to free market forces, we’d maximize security at the lowest cost in money and life. All I’m saying is that if the war maker or his financiers see value in war, they should pay for it themselves instead of making us pay for it.
I strongly suspect they don’t value the lives they spend as much as I do.
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
Director: Clint Eastwood