‘American Sniper’ and all these feelings about war

(From syracusenewtimes.com)

(From syracusenewtimes.com)

I know I am a man for peace. And against war.

I know I am a man who supports the soldiers who fight for our country, without question.

The conflict within those two beliefs reared its emotional and complicated head in my stomach again as I sat with hundreds of other folks rapt in attention at the very first widespread screening late Friday morning of “American Sniper,” the sure-to-be-blockbuster movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.

The entire theater was extremely quiet throughout the whole film. No cheers, jeers, or rustle of papers.

You can read my review of “American Sniper,” which is up for six Oscars, in today’s installment of my weekly Film Review blog on the Syracuse New Times site by clicking the link below.


As most people know, the movie is taken from the life of Chris Kyle, the Navy SEAL credited with the most confirmed kills in U.S. military history. His sniper shots and the fatality of the 21st Century War on Terror are marched relentlessly across the screen by Eastwood and Cooper, as are the resulting effects on life back home by Cooper and his wife, played by Miller.

Kyle was considered a legend by the troops. And his countrymen. All that killing and serving and protecting. on the flip side of this particular battle, Eastwood’s direction also showed a sniper for the terrorists, as well as a downed compatriot hoisted and carried through the streets as a hero for their protecting and serving their cause.

Confliction and contrasts. So much to consider.

Do you plan to see “American Sniper,” and what are your thoughts about the movie going in? Do you think movies about war generally glorify battle or make people weight the consequences? What’s your favorite war movie, and why?

62 thoughts on “‘American Sniper’ and all these feelings about war

  1. I hesitate a little to see it, because I don’t like movies that glorify war. It sounds from your review, though, that “Sniper” doesn’t do that. I’ll probably see it. I’m a book person, as you know, so more books come to mind when you ask about other representations. One of my favorite writers about war is Tim O’Brien, who was in Vietnam and who writes about it in many novels. His writing emphasizes the atrocity and heartbreak of war in a way that breaks the readers’ hearts.


  2. I saw American Sniper and loved it. I’m also a pacifist who supports the military. To me it’s more than a war movie. It’s about the story of one man who lived his life the best way he knew how.
    It hits a little close to home as I’ve seen that blank stare on my ex boyfriend’s face who served a year in Iraq and another tour in Afghanistan.
    Chris Kyle died fulfilling his mission of healing veterans. At the end of the day we are all people doing the best we can.


  3. Sooo many thoughts on Facebook about this movie–mainly around the Michael M. comments. I want to see it and yet the tension will be really hard for me to sit through. Esp. when it involves any body count.


    • I think it’s good when movies get subsequent discussions like this going on, Kay, from Michael M. and on down to us more regular folk. And yes, the on-screen depictions are quite horrible to withstand.


  4. Hmm… No, I do not plan on seeing it. I don’t like war movies anyway, but I especially don’t like war movies about the current war involving terrorists. They (terrorists) scare me, and I don’t see any need to provoke them.


  5. I saw the movie over the weekend and the theater was silent and no one moved out of their seats until the credits ended and then, the crowd burst into applause. I have conflicted emotions about war but I certainly support those who protect our freedom. It takes a lot for a movie to stick with me a few days after viewing and I’m still thinking about this one. I thought it was a job well done.


  6. I’m putting this in “HBO/Pay per view” territory. I want to see it, but I want to see it at home in case it gets too intense.

    I think movies are getting better about not glorifying war itself, but another review I am reading now goes into the whole issue of jingoistic themes (not that those are limited to war movies) which do bother me.


  7. The last one I enjoyed was Black Hawk Down…. probably because Eric Bana was in it. It also made sense. Another with a similar theme i liked after that was the MATT Damon one about oil and the 6 degrees of separation everyone had. Anyway Penguins opens tmrw so gunna see that instead.


  8. No sniper movie for me! Or war movies either, though I’m sure I’ve seen at least one. Monument Men wasn’t horrible, but I don’t like when characters die and that’s a given in war, yes. Tropic Thunder was worth a giggle.


  9. i love Clint Eastwood and Brad Cooper but like you I am torn btw the need and the desire for all these movies. I know it is the centenary of Gallipoli this year and it should be honored along with the other wars .. I just cannot, like colleen and others, ‘get into’ these movies anymore. I liked the one where Clint was the Vietnam vet living across the street from the other girl. ( sorry brain fade on title). But why so many war movies.???? it sounds like Clint went a bit over the top with this one. It is not due for release until mid February here in oz.


    • The other one is “El Camino.” I liked that one a lot, Louise.

      This one is causing a big stir of discussion about war and heroes here. Some people are saying just what you did. It’s OK to be tired of war, you know.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I saw it in order to review it and I don’t feel good about it. I felt Eastwood is way too much into the hero-worship of this guy, when in actual fact he was a much more flawed and complicated man than portrayed on screen. I also felt the refusal to show any moral qualms or emotional response was irresponsible story-telling. I don’t think this is the kind of person we, as a society, should be lauding, and I don’t think it made for great moving making either.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. i really, really want to see this. that having been said, i am not one who is for war or violence, yet think of our soldiers as heroes. it is an inner conflict similar to yours. war movies generally draw me in and make me think , and there are no clear answers, just a huge gray area for me. i always feel for the people involved, hard to decide good or bad and my favorite was ‘coming home.’


  12. I appreciate the review Mark. I don’t know if I’ll see the movie. I don’t normally go to war movies. For many of the reasons your other readers mentioned. Part of me wishes I could watch it.


  13. I saw the movie yesterday and I was not a happy camper when I left the theater. I found the movie, to be very disturbing, albeit well-crafted (in acting and directing). Unfortunately, it reinforced to me that we, as human beings, are so able to end the lives of others, based upon those things that set us apart, while virtually ignoring those attributes that we have in common, such as our humanity. In the end, I wondered, whether you’re a sniper for our side or for theirs, what the point is? What is being accomplished, aside from the destruction of human life and civilization? I wish I’d seen a different movie.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I was glad that Eastwood put those scenes where the other side reveled in their sniper as thinking points. Hence my sense of conflict, Doobster. And my review at the other site ends with my comment about war that I didn’t disclose here because my boss at that site has asked me not to give away too much here. And they pay me, so fair enough. In any case, thank you for your thoughtful conclusion.


  14. I’m not too interested in seeing it. I don’t doubt it’s a fascinating story, but reading interviews he did before he was killed somewhat sullied the desire to know anything else. I appreciate his service and sacrifice, but I read an interview with Bradley, and he said Chris’s father laid down the law to him about getting a proper portrayal. I think it tied the hands of the story. I’m sure it’s a fantastic movie, but I have mixed emotions about it, too. I think if it helps people have a glimpse of what military service is, then it’s good.


  15. As you know, I don’t see very many movies Mark and probably won’t see this one until it’s on TV one day. Like you I long for peace and I support those who serve.

    I wish there was no need for military service but there is and I’m grateful for those who fight for peace.

    I wish there was no need for powerful people to make decisions to go to war, but there is and I’m glad the decision doesn’t rest with me.

    I’ve heard very different takes on this movie which just goes to show how people struggle with this issue in general.
    Diana xo


  16. My husband told me that Chris Kyle was actually, well, let’s just say, he had a lot of personal beliefs that might prevent people from seeing him as the hero this movie portrays him to be. Do you know anything about this and, if so, how what are your thoughts on that after seeing the movie?

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Your review was excellent and makes me curious about the movie Mark. I don’t have any preference for war/no-war movies – my criteria is that they reflect the complex reality of life – or war. I dislike movies that glorify war or any other human activity. Give me real every time. And it sounds like this movie meets that criteria.

    Thanks so much Mark.


  18. My husband Ron, and I were talking about the comparisons between now and the Vietnam War, of which Ron served (he is a 24 year career Air Force veteran, 100% disabled now), all prompted by this movie. I was saying how bothered I was by the mental remnants of war that the young men and women have to deal with today, as compared to Vietnam. The one point we came up with that defined it for me, was the fact that in Vietnam you served for one tour of duty and then you were done. You could re-enlist, but many did not. Our service men and women are sent on multiple tours now with only a few months between deployments. The toll that takes on a person and their family is humbling! Serving in the military is fraught with hardships that most civilian folks never understand. It is a hard way of life. The ironies in this movie blow me away. I do not know if I could watch it. I am a veteran myself, and find that these stories rip my heart out. I don’t know that I want to go there. ❤

    Liked by 2 people

  19. I don’t plan to see “American Sniper.” I can’t put on enough protective armor when watching a movie like this, it seems, to not end up an emotional mess afterwards. When I was younger, I could let this stuff slide off me more easily, but not anymore. And I’m an Army brat, you’d think I’d be tougher.

    Liked by 3 people

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