Some movies make you laugh, some make you cry, this one makes you think. It almost makes you think too much. When the movie ends and the credits start to roll, there is no background music, no sound, only silence. This is fitting as one’s brain needs time to process what it has just observed.
The film is based on the true story of Chris Kyle (excellently portrayed by Bradley Cooper), who as a Navy SEAL sniper, was credited with over 160 kills while protecting U.S. Marines in Iraq. It is directed by Clint Eastwood who manages to bring in just about every aspect of what being in combat is like, both for the soldier and those back home. In some respects, it is too much to digest in one sitting.
The film begins by showing Kyle’s motivation for going into the military, love for his country, a desire to help defend America, the need to be part of a noble cause. It shows the camaraderie that develops when men and women are thrown together in a life and death situation.
It dramatically shows the aftereffect of being in combat. The disconnect between Kyle and his wife when he returns between tours of duty is powerfully portrayed. How can one person even begin to comprehend what combat does to another if they have never experienced it?
The film graphically depicts the realities of war and how a life can be taken so quickly. There is an underlying message of just how this war, like Vietnam, was such a waste of life. The scene of a Navy SEAL being buried is poignant. The soldier’s mother reads a letter (that I would love to have the words to) and then an officer hands the widow a folded American flag – the ultimate sacrifice of life, left with only a folded piece of cloth as remembrance.
In a discussion with his wife, Kyle is trying to relate to her, and makes the statement that while he and others are fighting a war, the people back home seem oblivious. What an understatement! This country is so ready to send men and women into combat but also so willing to ignore the reality of it all. Our biggest concern is how many friends we have on Facebook or how many followers we have on Twitter. Ironically, a lot of the buzz over this movie is about how in one scene they chose to use a fake baby rather than about the messages of the film.
The saddest part is showing the cost to those who have returned and have lost limbs, sight, or the ability to cope. The scenes in a VA hospital remind us of the real cost of a war. One of the stains on this country is how we treat our veterans. So willing to spend on war but not on those who have fought. This is amplified by the ending where a Marine that Kyle was trying to help shoots him. We are not told much more than that but he obviously was not mentally stable.
This movie makes you think. It makes you angry. It makes you proud. It makes you sad.
I give it four cigars, the fifth one I am going to smoke and reflect more on what I have just seen.