Biographies of always been a mainstay of motion pictures. In many respects seems easier for an audience to obtain a vicarious thrill watching the story of the real person, more so than any fictionalized character. It comes down to the veracity contained in the old saying ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ but even the merest iota of truth in the story infuses great power into its telling. What is unusual is for a single cinematic release year to contain so many bio pics as was found in 2014. Three biographical pictures were nominated for one of the highest honors any movie can receive; The Academy Award for Best Motion Picture of the Year’. The lives depicted in this trio of movies that have combined to set this year apart provided glimpses of a mathematical genius for preventing sexual orientation, a brilliant mind trapped in a degrading body would change our view of the universe in a military man performed his duties physically far removed from the enemy combatants you would target. It is the latter movie, ‘American Sniper’ that is the subject of this consideration.
Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was a young man who born and raised in the great state of Texas. Like so many others just like him Chris received the traditional tutelage from his father that taught him how to hunt and shoot. As he grew to manhood the vocation specific that portion of the country; he became a rodeo cowboy. While such an occupation may seem frivolous in today’s modern age it did infuse the young man a certain skill set that encompassed focus, determination and a high tolerance for pain. A short time this accumulation of skills redefined his life in a very specific manner. 1998 Chris notices the headlines reporting a series of bombings overseas targeting U. S. embassies. His upbringing is still another quality that will serve as a rudder steering the course of his life. Chris possessed the patriotic zeal that compelled him to enlist in the United States Navy. Serving as a seaman would not be sufficient for his patriotic aspirations. Chris started to become inducted into the elite ranks of the US Navy SEALs. There, his marksmanship ingrained in him from his youth would help make him one of the best of the best, a Navy SEAL sniper. All of the major factors determining his life were not complete, yet. One night while on leave Chris runs into a young woman at the bar, Taya Renae (Sienna Miller), and in short order they marry.
After the attacks of 9/11, 2001 Chris is dispatched to Iraq. It is there that he makes his first kill is a sniper; a woman and young boy who attacked some US Marines with a grenade. Chris is emotionally charged by the experience. There is something especially disturbing about killing women and children but they will undoubtedly enemy combatants who have just taken the lives of his comrades. Eventually over four tours of duty Chris is credited with making 255 kills, out of which 164 officially confirmed by the Department of Defense. Direction of the story was undertaken by one of the greatest filmmakers American cinema has ever produced, Clint Eastwood. Writing a screenplay was former television actor, Jason Hall utilizing the autobiographical by Chris Kyle is the dominant source. Even though it is widely accepted that any story that is migrated from the pages of the novel quality visual medium of film will require in the sessions in the name of dramatic license. In this specific instance the exceptionally high profile of the story became a lightning rod for many who are adamant to point out not only discrepancies the account made in the book but also with generally accepted procedures used in a US combat zone. It crystallizes many against the film is that the pivotal account of shooting the child was the fabrication of the screenwriter and did not appear in Kyle’s published account. Despite what could be construed as negative publicity, the film was an outstanding box office success exceeding several previously established.
There is one aspect of this bill that many veterans and support groups to find beneficial to the myriad of veterans returning from war. Chris returns back to the States he finds it extremely difficult to decompress from the constant heightened tension necessary in a war zone. He is prescribed psychiatric treatment to help with the transition. Chris admits to his therapist that he is still haunted by the people he could not save. As part of his recovery Chris becomes involved with helping soldiers were returned severely wounded. One of the methods Chris chose to teach his comrades out to shoot using a rifle range set up in a nearby wooded area. A post script to the film explains how this gesture intended to help others ultimately lead to the demise of Chris Kyle.
Israel is a man who is quite literally spent his entire life entertaining audiences. From his early days before the television camera playing the handsomely rugged cow hand in ‘Rawhide’, through a Series of Movies That would be fine the genre of ‘Spaghetti Western’, Mr. Eastwood has proven himself a legend in the art of cinema’s iconic portrayal of the no-nonsense San Francisco police detective, Dirty Harry Callahan’ has become part of our cultural zeitgeist. While several notable action heroes are reticent to abdicate the position in front of the camera, Mr. Eastwood is not only successfully made this transition but has achieved greater heights as a filmmaker garnering more accolades than he did as an active. Directorial style is straightforward, with a gut level emotional impact derived from his genius ringing an inner strength in people forced to encounter the most unimaginable psychological torment possible.
One of the recurring themes in many of Mr. Eastwood’s films is transformation. From a young woman training to be a champion boxer boy from Texas who wants to defend his country from the real danger of our enemies, Mr. Eastwood is at his artistic best when he subjects his protagonists to a psychological crucible that brings out previously untapped fortitude. This technique to a psychological crucible, while exceptionally powerful especially when employed by an auteur of such remarkable talent and insight can lead to a potential downside. While the principle characters are meticulously drawn, some of the secondary roles remain two dimensional. Combined with the fact that several are either construction of the imagination or amalgams derived from several people, they have the tendency to pull the audience out of accepting the validity of the story. Considering the powerful performances provided my Mr. Cooper and Ms Miller, their intensity overwhelms most other aspects of the movie. For those that recall some jingoistic films from World War II, the heroic actions of men such as Audie Murphy, the audience was left with a strongly imbedded sense of national pride. While the end credits role here there is the unmistakable feeling of sadness; a win over the enemies was achieved but at a price to our humanity that left a lingering feeling of sadness, an unfulfilled need to believe in the undeniable moral high ground of this nation. That so much of Chris was affected while serving overseas; it was not until he returned home could he realize how high the cost to him actually was. A sniper doesn’t kill in the heat of personal combat. He watched from a long distance away, waiting to decide when the life framed by his scope would end.