Friday, January 23, 2015

Pot shots at American sniper

I saw the film American Sniper the other day, it's a well made film in a very populist style but I have to question the veracity of the underlying storey (even allowing for the normal Hollywood manipulation)

Firstly we're introduced to Chris Kyle (the real American sniper) watching the twin towers falling with his wife at home in Texas and in the very next scene we see him in Iraq! If I remember correctly the Iraq war wasn't specifically to do with 9/11 but to do with WMD?  Anyway that's quite a small quibble; the main issue for me was the apparent ease with which the "hero", a fairly low grade NCO, could apparently do what he liked on the field of battle and order everyone else around to essentially go along with his wild hunches and personal vendettas (I know several military men who served in Afghanistan and Iraq and they say it's just not like that, the chain of command was much more rigid). Throughout the film the main character was being haunted by a mysterious baddie in black who was supposedly an opposing sniper who had won a shooting medal for Syria in the Olympics; the problem is that the film has this sniper operating for different (and opposing) Sunni and Shia factions at the same time; all pretty unlikely.

Finally there's the mental torment and regret that Kyle suffers in the film as he ploughs his way through the men, women and children of Mesopotamia, turning them into corpses and chalking up notches on his McMillan TAC-338 sniper rifle. All very powerful depictions of the moral spaghetti that was Iraq but somewhat at odds with Kyles own accounts of the same events in his book (of the same name) In the book Kyle comes across as someone who loathes the Iraqis (calling them "rag-heads") and felt happy that everyone he killed was evil. Bible bashing Kyle clearly states that his main purpose and preoccupation was the protection of his own troops "whatever the cost", but in reality I suspect the truth is somewhere between the dehumanising training that snipers like Kyle must surely receive and the Budweiser fuelled "all-American" banter invented in Texas bar rooms that someone thought might earn a few dollars if put in a book.

If you're looking for a (not too serious) hero/action adventure war movie that's well made and well acted then this may be a film for you. If you thought the Iraq war was morally reprehensible and felt that it was being run by a bunch of red-neck who-ha's and attention seeking lap-dogs for dubious reasons, then this film will probably confirm every suspicion you ever had.

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