American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, follows the true story of US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Nominated for an Oscar, the film broke records during its January box office opening weekend, taking $90m. It has sparked many political debates and has been a topic of controversy, receiving intense analysis and criticism from both the press and public.
In viewing films from a biographical perspective, there is always speculation as to how true the events are and questioning of its dramatisation. Nevertheless, the protagonist Chris Kyle was a real sniper who served four tours in the Iraq War after joining the Seals. The film detracts from a solely political exploration however by using the plot to additionally observe Chris’ relationship with his wife and two children, and at times lack thereof.
Anyone serving in the forces is expected to kill, take human lives and trained to resist hesitation by pulling the trigger. Kyle was known as the most lethal sniper within US military history, with 160 confirmed kills (with at least one witness present) and 255 probable kills. The sense of unity within any military unit is vital; your comrades become your brothers because you are continuously forced to risk your life in order to look out for and save each other. The film’s autobiographical catalyst reminds viewers that the military is formed of individuals brave enough to voluntarily lay down their life. Living in our own little worlds, occasionally the general public need reminders of the horrors within war zones.
Adapted from Kyle’s own autobiographical book American Sniper, released in 2012, the film transfers Kyle’s attitude of having had no regrets or guilt because he needed to do what was necessary in order to protect his fellow marines. It additionally however explores his anxiety and post-traumatic stress due to men’s’ lives whom he was unable to save. As with any heroism, there is a cost, and that was his family.
Similar to the well-known British choir group ‘Military Wives’, formed of wives, partners and service women of British Military personnel, American Sniper reminds us of the greater ripple effect – one sacrifice will lead to another. Whatever the accuracy of the war’s representation and history, this film acknowledges the pain and suffering of all military families, who lend their loved ones to ensure the safety of their home country. This moving tale is emphasised by the authentic video footage of Chris Kyle’s funeral, accompanied by the music ‘The Funeral by Ennio Morricone’. To have served his country and become a family man life, it is tragic and to unfortunate irony that Chris was killed on home soil, helping a fellow Navy SEAL.
The film raises awareness of post-traumatic stress disorder and draws attention to the support required to help the military. American Sniper’s strength lies in its authenticity and relatability to military forces today, thus its biographical nuances are pertinent to the film’s success.