Friday, January 23, 2015

He Said, She Said, He Said: American Sniper Review

My sister Rita, and brother Mark (both by another set of parents) and I felt we should do a joint review of American Sniper.

Rita's is here, and Mark's is here.

In writing a review of this movie, it occurs to me that I might write about:
  1. The story,
  2. How the story was told
I'll shoot for both.

So, the Story is good.
It's inspirational.
It's about an American youth raised with American values who at a young age is taught and encouraged to stand up for others. The Sheepdog.
He then meets adulthood with his career choice being "cowboy".
After a while of that he realizes he has a higher calling.
The Sheepdog.
He joins the Navy with the intention of being a SEAL.
And does so.
He marries.
He serves.
He tries to find a balance between the two.
He doesn't do well at that and struggles, obviously drawn to battle as most combat vets separated from their battle buddies become.
He completes his combat role and returns home safe.
He finds a way of continuing to serve while at home and out of harm's way.
His marriage flourishes.
He dies serving a fellow veteran.

How the story is told is a different story.
This is a story that probably needed more screen time.
The childhood formative narrative is rushed.
The cowboy narrative is rushed and to me, confusing.
It mainly presents a man who is lost, not knowing his true calling yet, but does not show him conflicted over that. Perhaps that is true to life in Kyle's case. I don't know.
It just comes off to me as disjointed.
Once Kyle hits BUDS, everything comes together story telling wise and story wise.
Kyle has found himself. He is who he is meant to be.
After this, the storytelling seems to smooth out also, so perhaps this was Clint's technique.
The movie ends somewhat abruptly.
We see no indication of the writing of the book or it's impact on his life.
We see him leave his wife and children to help another vet but (especially since the trial is ongoing), we see none of the events directly leading to his death.

So, in summary, I liked the movie.
A lot.
I loved the story.
I wonder how much of the editing was done by Clint or to him, but the movie felt rushed.

I'd like to know whether you agree or not.


  1. I didn't read the book yet. Most of the times I see a movie after I have read the book im disappointed with the exception of Orwell's 1984. That movie was spot on. My review on the movie did not come out as a review at all, it was more what the movie made me think about. You did a very good job as a reviewer, I wasn't objective enough I couldn't find anything I didn't like about it. Perhaps if I see it again I will see it in a different light. Thanks for joining us in this He Said She Said Ed Said, it was interesting! God job Ed !

  2. I haven't seen it yet, but your summary is similar to many of the others I've read. Most felt it was rushed and not quite fleshed out the way it should have been.

    Mostly, though, I'm enjoying watching the liberals' heads explode when they're confronted with those traditional American values. :)

    1. Thanks. I wondered if the "rushed" was just me.

  3. I simply can't watch war movies anymore. I just can't. I spent most of my misspent youth on active duty in the US Army, and all I do when I watch war flicks is see how much attention to detail the producers put into getting things right. I am always nitpicking their uniforms, their vehicles, their weapons, their mannerisms, their depiction of the military culture and virtually every film comes up seriously short in my book.

    Saving Private Ryan, Blackhawk Down, Three Kings, Platoon, Apocalypse Now, Full Metal Jacket, all of them I hated. They all were not even close to accurate in many if not all of the above criteria I listed.

    I did, however, like Clint Eastwood's "Heart Break Ridge," and Clint Eastwood in "Kelly's Heroes." Never say never, I guess. I am just not up to seeing the Hurt Locker or American Sniper. The trailers look like the same ol' dung.

    1. Hurt Locker seemed so wrong on so many levels, yet was engaging.
      One SEAL movie I liked was Act of Valor.

  4. Haven't read the book, nor watched the movie...and as a former Army Sniper [though not while in Iraq], I'm not sure I will.

    But the story needs to be told. The recognition of what it takes to become, and be a Sniper, needs to be part of the education of the public. A public that until now, usually only hears the term when the lazy, drive-by media is reporting on some idiot criminal with a rifle.

    And all copies of the Hurt Locker should be destroyed. Burned with fire. It is a travesty that should never be spoken of.

    1. Awww, come on....
      I really want your perspective.

    2. I can't comment on the movie, but both Rita and Mark's perspectives were really good. Rita's especially, because it reminded me of when I took my wife to see Black Hawk Down in the theater....and I held her as she cried while several others giggled as they left.

    3. I may watch it at some point, but it will probably be during another deployment, when I'm alone with my thoughts.

  5. I want to see it because it's a true story, but I cannot tolerate crying. Can't do it. Refuse. The last time something made me cry was OLD YELLER and I'm not going there again.

    1. OLD YELLER was rough on me when I was a kid.
      I never felt good about it, just because the kid got a new puppy.
      It's not that kind of crying in Sniper.

    2. I rarely cry in real life. I cry at a lot of movies. I think it helps with the lent up emotions.

  6. Thanks Ed, I'm going to try to see it this weekend!

    1. My theater discounts with DD214!
      But it's the same as the senior discount.
      For which I now qualify also.

  7. Did he ever question the mission? Just jump cutting to scenes of his family and asking us to believe that's motivating his targeting decisions is a cheap trick.
    The audience deserves better especially with what we know about Kyle's American values displayed when he calls everyone in a nation we invaded, "savages".
    Just bad filmmaking. Yes, as you said it was rushed.
    Possibly because Eastwood's indulgent attitude towards violence puts him in a corner where he can't really tell this story.

    1. I appreciate your taste in cinema and your insight into technique, but we're from different philosophical positions (surprise!) and I think yours may have blinded you to Clint't ability to tell a story.
      I did not like Unforgiven. But he told a story. Violent, yes.
      Gran Torino told a story.
      Or did you mean just this story?

    2. I'm referring to this film in particular, Ed.

      Eastwood made a statement recently that he wanted to show the torments of war and that's fine. It's not an original topic, clearly but I wonder why he couldn't question the mission.

      Did the nature of the mission weigh on Kyle. Doesn't come clear.

  8. You never change Ducky. Let's imagune a choice, shall we? Let's imagine a kid with an RPG running toward your fellow soldiers. You sight him. Do you make a moral choice and think it's just a kid, or do you see something that is about to kill 10, 20 guys?

    Now remember those 10 to 20 guys aren't planning on killing the kid. But he kid, driven by his "savage" mother is going to kill them if you do nothing.

    You tell me how a mother shouldn't be called a savage when she hands her kid an RPG and cares so little about her own child's life that she sacrifices him.

    That is savagery. That by very definition is evil.

    Pick up a weapon and defend the freedom you enjoy or just shut up.

    1. Yes that is evil.
      Sheep, wolves, sheepdogs.

    2. The subject is worth more than a cheap cliche, Ed.

      How do you portray a man who calls the residents of a country WE INVADED, savages?

      I'm struck by the need of the right to establish this film as some kind of anthem. They can't allow the narrative to be questioned and Eastwood clearly serves their purpose.
      For some reason they can't handle ambiguity.

    3. Let's say we wrongly invaded Afghanistan (regardless that they harbored and abetted the group that launched 9/11).
      That makes drilling children's heads or arming them with grenades for suicide missions no less savage.

  9. I got a copy to watch here at home and literally just saw it...tonight.
    I think it was rushed, too, but I liked it enormously. Ed, I think your overview is excellent, actually. Scenes tended to be abrupt but it's a question of putting a lot into 2 hours.

    I thought a very meaningful scene was when he was home from one of his tours and his wife found him just sitting in front of the TV and we don't see the screen but we hear gunfire and grenades exploding...the camera pans to the TV and it's off.... He's looking at the dark screen and seeing SO MUCH there in the his HEAD.

    Rita, I couldn't agree with you more on that awful scene where he has to kill the child and the mother. Let's not forget the other scene,later, where another child picks up a rocket launcher (I I know?) and Kyle keeps saying "put it down, put it DOWN" so he doesn't have to kill him. And when the kid does suddenly put it down and run, the relief is palpable.
    That said A LOT. Actually, it was the perfect metaphor for what Kyle was there for.

    What WE were there for is another thing.... Rather than what libs seem to think is a "Stinkin' pro war movie full of awful American cowards" is really a thoughtful piece which made me think, even more, "if only we could have fought HARD and GOT OUT"

    I also thought "If this country was depending on ME to protect us, Ms Chicken of the Century, we'd be in even sorrier shape than we ARE". Where these guys get that courage is beyond me, that's for sure.

    The humor was wonderful, too. Particularly the thing about his friend buying a diamond engagement ring IN Iraq...."I'm going to tell her I got it at Zale's"
    Then the thread of that humor when, later, Kyle asks him "What if she takes it to Zale's to see what you worried about that?"
    "I wasn't worried but now I am"..etc. Such good stuff ...

    I liked it in general...very glad I saw it. Very glad MANY are seeing it.
    God rest Chris his family ever got over that afternoon, after finally thinking he's home and safe NOW, to get the news he'd been killed HERE? WOW

  10. I seem to have written a novela...sorry!

    1. What is to be sorry for?
      I'm glad I saw at your place how you came to see it at home.
      I know two guys who watched bootleg copies at home.

    2. Well, there IS that text at the beginning of these Academy versions that you can't even LEND IT IN PRIVATE, but what the heck? I figured the FBI wasn't looking in my living room! :-)
      Also, as you watch, about every 30 minutes, there's printing across the bottom, so's to protect that it's known that it's an Academy version!

      Who bootleg'd the copies!?

    3. They got it on line. Free. Two different websites.
      Not some young kids either.

  11. You're right Z. the scene where he keeps repeating,"put it down, put it down" is very moving. I bought the book last week but haven't yet had a chance to read much. Knowing those are some of Kyle's last words is heartbreaking.

    1. Rita, I think "put it down" really cemented the ridiculousness of so many on the Left's calling snipers COWARD and KILLERS........Why is it not okay to put Americans' lives first for leftists..? I'll never quite figure that out. I don't have that hate for country, I guess.
      Kyle just gives us another reason to feel EXCEPTIONAL, whether Obama likes it or not.
      I'm not sure what you mean by "Kyle's last words".?

  12. Ed, as I watched, I kept thinking "We have to come home and let them fight it out there...keep an eye on the intel if Obama'd ever let us really do what we need to, and if he can raise up a CIA worthy of the task again under his watch....our boys have to come home."
    So much of the prosthesis (sometimes multiple) and brain injuries were got in that area which is now taken over by ISIL. Enough's enough. How's that feel to our fighting men and women and their families?

    1. That begs an interesting point.
      Was it ever necessary to go their?
      Kyle was saying (as many did) that we were fighting them there, so as not to fight them here.
      Was that really true? Or did Kyle (and so many others) go there in vain?

    2. Ed, I wish the news 'media' asked more questions like that. The insurgents arrayed against us in Iraq [aside from AQI] were no threat to the homeland. Islamic to be sure, but nationalist. They resolutely wanted to expel the foreign invader, just as we would pursue here at home, were roles reversed. Similar situation in Afghanistan; we invaded for a reasonable purpose - to destroy/expel al Qaeda.....but stayed for 13 years and counting, fighting a rural insurgency that is once again, of no threat to our homeland.

      It is up to the individual to determine if both endeavors were in vain or not.....but these questions should be asked, continually.

    3. Well, sometimes you spend so much time fighting off alligators that you forget you went to drain the swamp :)


    Bill Maher has joined the nuts with calling Kyle a "Savage". He doesn't understand that those he was fighting would kill any American in a heartbeat; and that apparently doesn't make THEM savages, right?
    Ah, yes....And he even mentioned how, if you're a Christian, you can never call anybody SAVAGE, like Kyle did for the murderers of Americans. Love it when Maher speaks for Christians! :-)

    1. Maher is a smart intelligent jerk.
      I might not beat him in a debate but that doesn't make him right.

  14. I thought it was quite good. There was a whole lot to tell in a fairly short amount of time. What do you think of Michael Moore saying snipers are cowards?

    1. Youre right about the time constraint.
      I think they misread their audience, thinking they wouldn't sit through another 20 minutes..
      People often project their own failings on others.
      Someone who steals thinking others are thieves, etc.

  15. Just checking in. Will come back and read the review after I catch the movie and no longer fearful of spoilers.

  16. o wow come read my post..u will love it my friend!!!! loved your review!

  17. Maybe the movie feels rushed because the producers felt that the audience wouldn't want to commit to so much time. Everybody is in a rush these days!

    I also wonder if the producers actually believed that the movie would be such a big hit at the box office.

  18. I read "The Godfather".
    Then saw the movie. Mistake. There is NO way to tell that story in two hours or so. Heck, you couldn't tell that story in FIVE hours.
    So, like Mark, I now see the movie and if I love it, read the book.

    I thought Eastwood's movie was powerful. Anyone who has been in combat and has had to make that life/death decision for others will identify with Chris Kyle and will nod their heads in agreement at how horrible it is that we cannot "just get along".
    Folks like Ducky don't get it. Never will.
    And that's why the world now finds itself looking at history repeating itself vis-à-vis the early 1930's.
    But our country has changed and I'm not sure we have the backbone to do what we'll have to do, in the way our grandparents and parents did.
    And that fact wastes the efforts; the blood and sacrifice of folks like my Dad and Chris Kyle.
    God be with us.

    1. Well said. Every word. Especially the last four.