American Sniper is about to become a somewhat surprising megahit. Already it has taken $250 million at the US box office and it seems certain to be a hit all over the world – expect perhaps the Middle East.
Myself and Annabel went to see it, at our favourite cinema, the DCA in Dundee, last Saturday. I was so keen to see it that we even went at 3pm – the sacred football hour! It was well worth it. I won’t give a detailed synopsis or analysis of the film here (you can get plenty of that elsewhere) but let me just offer a few observations.
2) If Bradley Cooper, the main actor, does not get an Oscar, then there is no justice in Hollywood. I thought his performance was convincing, had depth and showed something of the real struggles that the real American sniper (Chris Kyle) must have had. Kudos. I cannot imagine what it must be like to have been responsible for the deaths of over 150 people (I note that the British press have been quick to get it on the act – boasting about how a Royal Marine sniper has over 170 plus kills) – but I suspect (or at least hope) that for the Sniper it is not like playing a computer game. These are real lifes, real people, real kills.
3) Despite the brilliance of the directing and acting, and the poignancy that the main details of the story are true, we should not be fooled. Film, especially the Holywood version, is a very limited medium. The danger is that we think it gives us reality when all it does is give us a simplistic, dumbed down, version of reality. War is far more complex than American Sniper reveals. Humans are more complex and messy , even than the complex character played by Bradley Cooper.
4) “I’m prepared to meet my Maker, and answer for every shot I took” – that line reveals something about how deeply ingrained Christianity is into American culture. Some may see this film (God, Country and Family – clearly being the hierarchy of values being displayed) as glorifying a ‘cultural Christian’ view of war. I don’t. I am thankful that any soldier would realise that ultimately he has to answer to God. The realisation that we all have to give account to God for what we do (no matter what we get away with on earth) is a key factor in human behaviour. God help us if America ever becomes atheist – combine US jingoism and nationalism and leave out the leavening salt of Christianity and the whole world will be in even bigger trouble!
5) Plot spoiler! – (Although if you read the newspapers you will know the story anyway). In Hollywood they would all live happily ever after. In real life they didn’t. Chris Kyle came home to his family, dealt with his trauma and helped other ‘vets’ to cope with theirs. And then he was killed by one. If I was an atheist I would just simply shrug my shoulders and say, ‘so, life sucks…get what you can while you can’. If I was a liberal Christian I would say, ‘life sucks, but God cares and feels our pain, get what you can out of life’. But as a Bible believing Christian I say ‘life is wonderful, and it sucks, but thank the Lord there is a day of judgement, that atonement has been made for sin, and that Christ has come and his kingdom will come – when there will be no more need for snipers of any nationality.
by David Robertson