starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman and Cory Hardrict
written by Jason Hall
directed by Clint Eastwood
I didn’t particularly like this story, but I thought the acting and the cinematography were excellent. It`s a great movie. American Sniper is based on the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History (2012) by Chris Kyle, Scott McKwen and Jim DeFelice. It is the autobiography of U.S. Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle (1974 - 2013) who is called the deadliest sniper in American military history. I guess that means the most successful sniper. Not the deadliest in history - not by a long shot. Pun! Kyle joined the U.S. military at a relatively late age after the August 1998 American Embassy bombings in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Somalia, which killed 224 people including twelve Americans. I remember those events in the news. Kyle was a kind of patriotic country boy who enlisted out of patriotism - because America is the greatest country on Earth and worth fighting for. Personally I think the United States is one of the worst countries on Earth, but no amount of explanation will make my position even remotely comprehensible to most Americans. (Do I think Canada or Japan are better? No, not really. Well, maybe a little, but not by much. I’m not a great fan of the nation state. I see the nation state more as a convenience than a necessity or a destiny, and not much of an accomplishment to glory in.) Anyway, just three years later the infamous terrorist attacks on New York City’s World Trade Center occurred and Kyle’s path towards war in Afghanistan and Iraq was set. Like many others I watched the World Trade incident on live TV here in Japan just a couple of weeks after returning from a Canada-U.S. trip.
In showing the difficulty of marriage with his long-suffering wife, Taya, the movie explores Post Traumatic Stress Disorder - what used to be called “shell shock” in the First World War, and then “battle fatigue” in the Second World War. Kyle did a total of four tours of duty in Iraq, so he had plenty of time to develop psychosis. And he did.
Kyle was killed along with two other veterans in 2013 at a firing range by a disturbed veteran whom they accompanied for a session of therapeutic shooting. Therapeutic shooting? Only in America, I guess. It must say something about U.S. gun culture. I remember when I read about it in the news and reports that he was the “deadliest sniper in U.S. military history.”
I’m not a great fan of the nation state. I see the nation state more as a convenience than a necessity or a destiny, and not much of an accomplishment to glory in.
American Sniper was much better than that other famous Iraq War movie, The Hurt Locker (2009, directed by Kathryn Bigelow), which was a piece of shit despite winning the Academy Award for Best Picture.
I was impressed with Bradley Cooper. This is the first film I’ve seen him in other than those stupid Hangover movies (with Ed Helms and Zack Galifianakis). It looks like he gained weight and grew up. He looked good.
Kyle is said to have had 255 “kills,” but he is only credited with 160 confirmed “kills.” The confirmed number is the official count. When he died he was celebrated as a fallen hero and I understand that. This Clint Eastwood film contributes to the hagiography. But I wonder about the propriety of celebrating a sniper. It doesn’t seem like such a great thing to celebrate. Even though their battlefield role is important snipers are considered kind of cold-blooded and psychotic. More murderer than soldier. The killing done by most soldiers is somewhat impersonal and detached, shooting from a distance. And although snipers are also shooting from a distance their telescope brings them up close and personal to their deliberately selected targets. Most death in war is random, but not death by sniper. That’s not random at all. Huge engines of war, like huge engines of industry are blind and thus accidental; a slow, regular picking off of the men beside you is evidence that human terribleness that is not blind or accidental is cold-bloodedly and unshakably turning its attention to a spot very near you. It may very shortly turn its attention on yourself.
I looked on the Internet to find a list of the deadliest snipers of all time. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Some websites list the deadliest snipers by country making the compilation of an overall Top 10 list an tedious exercise of clicking back and forth from one country to another, making hardcopy notes as I go. Other sites list snipers variously by the number of kills they are credited with versus the number of “official” kills, which is a different number. It`s a simple query, isn’t it? But I thought the answers verged on stupid.
Here is a list of some 20th Century snipers:
1. Simo Hȁyhȁ Finland 705 kills
2. Francis Pegahmagabow Canada 378 kills
3. Lyudvila Pavlichenko USSR 309 kills
4. Vasily Zaytzev USSR 252 kills