Critic’s Corner: ‘American Sniper’ Hits a Bullseye


Photo via Warner Bros.

Leaving the theater at the conclusion of this movie was like nothing I had ever experienced before. The credits began to roll without the company of music. And every single person in attendance stood up and exited in
complete silence.

I didn’t hear a word uttered until the first step outside of the AMC. It was seemingly an act of respect for the American hero whose life was portrayed in the film, a man who had lost his life just less than two years ago while being back home in the states.

Chris Kyle was the deadliest sniper in U.S. military history, credited with at least 126 kills during his four tours in Iraq. Clint Eastwood directed “American Sniper,” a film depicting Kyle’s life. The movie has already been nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Actor in a Leading Role.

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was an All-American guy born in Texas. His father taught him how to hunt and how to be the type of man that protects those he cares about. His father preached that there are three types of men in the world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.

Kyle was a sheepdog who protected the sheep from the evil of the world. Prior to becoming a military sniper, Kyle was a cowboy and competed in rodeos, but had always felt he was called for something greater. He wanted to serve his country. Through rigorous training, he became a Navy SEAL and, following the events of 9/11, found himself in Iraq for four tours.

During his training, he met a girl and fell in love. Eventually they got married and were set to have a family. Kyle felt that it was his duty as both an American and as a father to keep going back to fight in Iraq so that he could protect his family and his country.

Bradley Cooper delivered an incredible performance well-worthy of his Oscar nomination. Throughout the war, Kyle experienced countless traumatic events and occasionally had his beliefs challenged by fellow soldiers who did not believe in the cause to the extent that he did, including his own brother.

The movie shows how challenging it is to be a sniper, as the decision to kill is entirely the responsibility of the shooter. Making the judgment of whether to shoot a young child that might be carrying a grenade is no simple ethical calculus. After multiple tours, it was clear that the effects of the war had began to wear hard on him. The evidence of how post-traumatic stress disorder affected him and his family was powerful. He became more distant from his family as the sounds of war filled his head. He flinched at the sounds of power drills and lawnmowers, struggling to readjust back into civilian life.

War will always be difficult to understand for those not directly experiencing it, but the story of Chris Kyle allows people to see the war through a soldier’s eyes and develop an understanding of what he had to go through.

“American Sniper” is an amazing true story of an American hero who, in the midst of fighting for his country, also had to fight to keep his family together and keep his sanity.

Harrison may be reached at [email protected]