AMERICAN SNIPER: Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner, Ben Reed, Luke Grimes, Elise Robertson. Directed by Clint Eastwood. Rated MA15+ (Strong themes and violence). 132 minutes
By Pat Cannard
RECENTLY I viewed the film American Sniper and promptly went out and bought the book written by Chris Kyle, a United States Navy SEAL (Sea, Air, Land teams) from 1999-2009 who served four tours of Iraq in the role of sniper.
I had fully expected a film of lots of blood and guts, violence and bad language.
Well, there was less of that than in some of the fictional films coming out of Hollywood.
Yes, there was some blood; yes, killing is a violent act; and, yes, “soldier language” was portrayed.
However, director Clint Eastwood managed to give the public a portrayal of the life of a SEAL in action without traumatising his viewers or influencing us to violent response.
Rather it was a film that caused me to reflect on the dangers faced by all troops in war zones and to have sympathy for the effect war has on their psyches.
There were no explicit sex scenes – just moments of tenderness between Chris, his wife Taya and their children.
The book goes into greater depth about Chris’ dedication to service for his country, putting duty to the US above duty to his family on many occasions.
We also get an insight into how his Christian faith, though not overtly practised, was a big influence in his life.
He also is able to justify his “kill” numbers by the numerous American lives he saved doing his job.
And, for those interested in weaponry, Chris goes into detail on what weapons he used during his time in Iraq. The reader also gets a bigger picture of his beginnings in a Texas family, the influence of his father on how to handle firearms from a young age, and his riotous behaviour on many occasions – call it “letting off steam”, if you like.
The strong bond between the men who served as SEALs with Chris, and their reactions to the deaths of two of their numbers, one killed in action, one dying later from wounds, is an insight to the camaraderie that exists in all sections of the armed forces when they serve in a war zone.
The devastation they suffer at these losses cannot be measured.
The film shows the desert conditions the troops served in; the book covers the difficulties in working with members of the Iraqi forces and the uncertainty of the loyalty of the local population with insurgents living within the areas of operation, and especially the role of children who took on the role of combatants against the allied troops.
Chris left the Navy after realising it was important to return to his family although he still hankered after his life as a SEAL.
After the book was completed and during the writing of the film script by Jason Hall, Chris Kyle was killed by another veteran who is facing trial in the USA.
Chris had been helping veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder to get some normality back into their lives.
The Texas public formed a guard of honour at his funeral, thousands lining the route of the cortege.
This is a book/film about modern-day warfare and weapons – perhaps we should all spend more time familiarising ourselves with what it really means when the word “war” is mentioned.
And perhaps we should spend a moment each day to pray for peace in the world.
Pat Cannard is a Brisbane Catholic.