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American Sniper: Hero or Villain?


She (Emily) Said:
When I first saw the American Sniper trailer in theaters, I thought to myself that it was a must-watch. Packed with unbearable tension and emotion in a mere two minutes, the evocative trailer is one of the most stunningly effective of its kind. But I wish that was all that I had watched.
Don’t get me wrong. The film was undoubtedly well-made, greatly humanizing the archetypal merciless, skillful sniper. Bradley Cooper did a commendable job fleshing out Chris Kyle, the “deadliest sniper in US military history”, who had been credited for 160 confirmed kills out of a possible 255, and was murdered by a fellow veteran at age 25. But perhaps that really was the problem, as I soon found out after some web surfing on the movie.
In his memoir, Kyle described killing as “fun”—something he “loved”. He firmly believed that every person he shot was a “bad guy” and considered the Iraqis “damn savages”. I was rather disturbed that Kyle wasn’t the tortured but noble hero the film made him out to be. This entire contradiction raised a nagging question about how we depict war and those who take part in it.
Undoubtedly, the film speaks for many of the guilt-ridden snipers out there who do exist—but is glorifying Kyle’s black-and-white world really right?
This might not be so concerning if it weren’t for the American public’s reaction to the film. Patriots immediately jumped at the gun, fanatically praising the film and consequently its one-dimensional view of the war. Chris Kyle is right, the Iraq War is right, the Iraqis are evil and deserve to be killed… Anyone who criticized the film was shouted down as unAmerican. Whenever somebody suggested it was immoral to boast about the number of “kills,” the patriots would literally call for the person’s death online for criticizing our great war hero.
If Clint Eastwood’s film humanized Kyle, then it definitely dehumanized his victims. Always portraying Arabs as evil threats to the lives of marines, Eastwood managed to justify every kill of Kyle’s. And that isn’t to say that wasn’t the actual case, but it’s curious how many people have not questioned it.
We don’t know what kind of guy Kyle was–who knows, he might have really been the complex and tormented man the film portrayed. But it’s best to stay neutral about the patriotic box-office hit American Sniper. After all, seeing shouldn’t always mean believing–especially in theaters.
He (Vergil) Said:
At the dinner table, war hero Chris Kyle’s father taught him that there are three types of people in the world: wolves, sheep, and sheepdogs.
In the movie version of his tormented life, Kyle epitomizes the sheepdog, those who defend the sheep.
A man who suffered post-traumatic stress as a result of his inability to save comrades, Kyle, America’s most highly decorated sniper, represents the true American patriot. Regarded by many as a guardian angel on the battlefield, he made split-second decisions that saved countless American lives.
One important scene in this gripping movie has stuck with me. A platoon of American soldiers enters a small Iraqi village. Tasked with giving them overhead support, Kyle notices an Iraqi man on his phone. Later, an Iraqi woman and her child walk out of the building. The woman hands the child a RKG-3 Anti-Tank grenade. With a split second to respond, he decides to take the life of the child to save his men. But at the same time, the woman lets out a shrieking cry and pulls from her robes another grenade. Just as she was about to release it, Kyle takes another shot and manages to kill her before she’s able to do any damage.
Does this make him a merciless killer? Many Iraqis certainly think so. They gave him the nickname “The Devil of Ramadi.” But in my view he was only doing his job. While he may have taken the lives of some innocents, more often he was saving the lives of those in his platoon.
Director, Clint Eastwood successfully introduces the gripping story of Kyle to those who haven’t heard of him. A patriot as well as a warrior, Kyle’s kills were totally justified given the situation he faced. Amidst the heat of all of the controversy surrounding him and his autobiography, it is important to remember that he was a hero who was willing to sacrifice his life for his soldiers.
In fact, his life has had such a big impact that the Texan governor Greg Abbot named February 2 Chris Kyle day.

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