No one would argue the point that Clint Eastwood is in top form as the director of the latest box office favourite – American Sniper.
The film is brilliantly shot with the interchanging scenes of Chris Kyle’s (on whose book and life the film is based) life as a navy SEAL as well as the mental torments he faces during and after the war. This is a moving portrayal of the absurdities of war, the despicable things men are forced to do in the name of patriotism and the pain they go through to fulfill their duties. We begin to relax and feel happy for Chris in his post-war family bliss, all to be shattered by the final scene, where (spoiler alert) we are let know he got shot fatally by another veteran he was helping.
What a great story! What a true hero! The film should inspire men to go and kill hundreds more enemies in the name of flag and country.
But truth could be far from fiction. Was Chris Kyle the selfless hero the film hails him as? Did he kill because that was the only thing he could do to salvage the situation? In a crucial scene in the movie, Kyle has his finger on the trigger ready to shoot at the small child who is about to launch a rocket at the approaching US army van, and when at the final moment the kid drops the launcher and runs away, Kyle sighs aloud in relief that he was not forced to shoot the boy. I jumped from my seat, sharing his relief. So many such small moments make the character of Chris and soon you find yourself justifying everything he does on the war front.
But according to Chris Kyle himself in his best-seller, ‘American Sniper’, he never felt any remorse for his actions. In fact, he says he loved every moment of it.
“I only wish I had killed more. If circumstances were different, I’d be back in a heartbeat. I had the time of my life being a SEAL”
‘THE TIME OF MY LIFE’ – he is talking about killing as many people as he could.
When these people are the savage middle easterners out to destroy American civilization in the name of terrorism and when it’s the duty of every strong willed American to save their country from such attacks, Chris’ actions become a war lore.
This presents us with a dilemma. What is the real truth? Is it the same exaggerated hero-worship story as in the stories that we hear in the media about all the American war heroism? Are the reasons the USA are giving us for their meddling in other countries’ affairs legitimate? Is the Iraq war a retaliation to the bombing of twin towers, as depicted in the movie? When the actual portrayal should have been in shades of grey, the movie depicts the war in a black and white distinction of good versus bad, where quintessentially the American side is on the good like always! Is the truth something else?
These are bigger questions to ponder about while the Oscar prospects of the movie at present seem bleak, with the ongoing backlash against the movie and its portrayal of a rather selfish man as a selfless hero.
PS: Movie’s saving grace is the wonderful performance by Bradley Cooper.