Year Released: 2014
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
(R, 134 min.)
Genre: Drama, Action and Adventure
“I didn’t risk my life to bring democracy to Iraq. I risked my life for my buddies, to protect my friends and fellow countrymen.” Chris Kyle
They just don’t get it. All those sanctimonious critics labeling American Sniper a war-mongering film celebrating a killer. Fortunately, the American public does get it, to the tune of its record-shattering opening that has netted over $100 million so far.
Michael Moore, Seth Rogen, and Dennis–“The real American Sniper was a hate-filled killer”–Jett, who incidentally never saw the film but based his UK Guardian critique on the trailer only, are hopelessly out of touch with the real world.
Perhaps some of those real world events are behind box office lines trailing around the block. It doesn’t hurt either, that the shrewd marketers scheduled early release screenings for veteran’s groups, ginning up word of mouth appeal. Also part of this perfect storm – the recent terrorist atrocities in France and America’s no show at the world wide march to honor the victims, our tepid response further tainted by Secretary of State John Kerry’s pathetic Parisian hug-in-guitar-serenade there some four days after the fact.
Not to mention, the notorious negligence at the Veteran’s Hospitals finally disclosed to the public last spring. Actually, American Sniper is more about the psychic damage done to our volunteer soldiers than it is about waging war. And the film aptly demonstrates the toll taken on military families as well.
In one particularly devastating scene, Kyle’s pregnant wife Taya (Sienna Miller) calls Chris in Iraq via a special phone to share her ultra-sound results. In the middle of the conversation, a gun battle erupts and Taya is party to all the terrible sounds of the firefight. When Chris’s phone is left behind and blown up, she assumes the worst.
Perhaps some negative reaction to the film is based on its title, taken from the autobiographical book by navy SEAL Chris Kyle. “Sniper” is a loaded word, recalling contract killers or even the infamous Lee Harvey Oswald’s assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. But the film shows us that Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) only killed those about to murder the marine troops he was protecting.
An early flashback interrupts Kyle’s first deployment as he has to decide whether or not to kill a woman and child who are about to lob a rocket into incoming American troops. The flashback shows Chris bloodying the nose of a large bully who has been pummeling his little brother. Unlike the school officials, his father approves. He tells Chris there are three types of people: the sheep or victims, which his family will never be; the predators, a group equally shunned; and the sheepdogs, or the protectors. Chris assumes this mantle with pride and that is how he sees his role in the war as well.
Other out of context quotes from the book and the movie also mislead a few. Chris calls some, but certainly not all, of the Iraqis savages, and we see why. One of the most brutal is the Butcher, a sadist who uses a drill to torture those who talk to the Americans. Kyle even comes upon a refrigerator filled with body parts and a human head as he hunts for this killer.
Something else that sets this film apart is the enthusiastic support of Bradley Cooper, the lead who has already had 2 other Oscar nominations in addition to the one for his role here. Cooper himself went through a demanding regimen to physically resemble Kyle, who “looked like Paul Bunyan” to his fellow soldiers. Early on, before his tragic death in 2013, Cooper was able to talk to Kyle by phone, who was happy with Cooper, with one exception.
“I’m going to have to drag you behind my pickup truck to get the pretty out of you,” he reportedly taunted.
Cooper worked out a grueling 4 hours a day to put on the 40 pounds of lean muscle he needed to look the part. No padded suits for him.
Cooper has also been making the rounds with the troops, just recently surprising veterans at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio with a visit on the day the film was screened there. He also spent considerable time with wounded vets in the ward.
And he likes guns, too.
“He used three sniper rifles on the four tours,” Mr. Cooper told The Washington Times. These included the Mark 11 sniper rifle, the .300 Winchester Magnum sniper rifle and the .338 Lapua.
“I love all of them,” Mr. Cooper said of the firearms. “I guess the Mark 11 is sort of the best one, but the .338 [is the one] that he hit [his target] at the 2,100 yards.”
Contrast that with Lone Survivor star Mark Walberg:
Well, I would love it if they could take all the guns away. Unfortunately, you can’t do that so you hope that good people in the world have them to protect the people who can’t protect themselves. Certainly, I haven’t used a gun anywhere other than on a movie set and I’d like to see if we could take them all away. It would be a beautiful thing. Mark Wahlberg
There’s too many [expletive] guns out there, especially in America. I think the population is like, 320 million? There’s over 300 million guns. Privately owned, in America. I think it’s a [expletive] disgrace. Liam Neeson
Finally, American Sniper joins many other fine films and Oscar nominees based on real people, heroes and notorious eccentrics:
Alan Turing, who broke the Nazi Enigma Code in The Imitation Game
Stephen Hawking, the world renowned theoretical physicist in The Theory of Everything
Martin Luther King, pioneer of the Civil Rights Movement, in Selma.
John du Pont, the disturbed Billionaire in Foxcatcher.
Even though most of these persons influenced history, the films about them are largely character studies.
American Sniper is the only one to burn the box office down though. Isn’t it time you saw it for yourself to discover why?
Perhaps the most moving scene of the film is the special tribute paid to Chris Kyle, who met his death at the hands of a soldier suffering from PTSD whom he was trying to help. His memorial service at the Dallas Cowboys Stadium was attended by 10,000 people. But it is the 200-mile procession from Chris’s residence in Midlothian, TX, to Austin for burial that provides the final moments of the film that leave the audience in stunned silence. (Read the movng first peron account of the funeral following the recipe.)
It is a Texas goodbye that lives up to our state’s outsized reputation, to say the least.
Lift a Lone Star salute to our fallen hero and feast on this Texas favorite, Chicken Fried Steak. Ours is from Texas chef extraordinaire Grady Spears, and features a dip into buttermilk and Shiner Bock Beer.
Texas Chicken-Fried Steak
1 1/2 cups flour 2 teaspoons kosher salt 2 teaspoons freshly ground pepper 4 tablespoons paprika 2 eggs 1/2 cup buttermilk 1/2 cup Shiner Bock or other bock beer peanut oil, enough to cover meat halfway 4 tenderized round steaks (about 1/2 pound each) 2 cups Cracked-Pepper Gravy
Mix first 4 ingredients and set aside on a plate or wax paper. Whisk eggs in a large bowl, then add buttermilk and beer and whisk to blend. Set aside. In a deep, heavy skillet, heat oil to 350 degrees. While oil is heating, prepare the steaks by dredging them in flour mixture, coating evenly. Shake off any excess. Dip in egg batter, and then again in flour, evenly coating the batter so it is dry on the outside. When oil temperature reaches 350 (a drop of batter will sizzle when dropped into it), gently slide one steak into the oil. Cook about 3 minutes, then turn it, taking care not to break the crust, and cook 3 more minutes, or until nicely browned. Drain on paper towels. Repeat with the other steaks. Hold cooked steaks in a 225-degree oven until all are done. Serve with Cracked-Pepper Gravy. Serves 4.
1/2 cup unsalted butter 5 tablespoons flour 2 1/2 cups whole milk 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt 4 teaspoons cracked pepper
Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over low to medium-low heat. When foam subsides, add flour, whisking continuously until it cooks, becoming a fragrant light brown. Slowly add milk, whisking to keep lumps from forming. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for 10 minutes. Makes about 3 cups.
A Texas Goodbye
Southwest airlines flew in any SEAL and his family to the funeral free of charge. The Mariott Hotel reduced their rates to $45 for the SEALS and the Midlotian police picked up that tab. The Texas DPS parked a large motor home in from of the Kyle house to block the view from reporters. George W. Bush and his wife Laura met and talked to everone on the SEAL team one on one.
Nolan Ryan sent his cooking team, a huge grill and lots of steaks, chicken and hamburgers. They set up in the front yard and fed people all day long including the 200 SEALs and their families.
Jerry Jones, the man everyone loves to hate, was a rock star. He made sure that we all were taken care of. His wife and he were just making sure everyone was taken care of....Class...
He donated the use of Cowboy Stadium for the services as it was determined that so many wanted to attend. The charter buses transported us to the stadium.
The next day was the 200-mile procession from Midlothian, TX to Austin for burial. It was a cold, drizzly, windy day, but the people were out. We had dozens of police motorcycles riders, freedom riders, five chartered buses and lots of cars.
You had to have a pass to be in the procession and still it was huge. Two helicopters circled the procession with snipers sitting out the side door for protection. It was the longest funeral procession ever in the state of Texas. People were everywhere. The entire route was shut down ahead of us, the people were lined up on the side of the road the entire way. Firemen were down on one knee, police officers were holding their hats over their hearts, children waving flags, veterans saluting as we went by.
Every bridge had fire trucks with large flags displayed from their tall ladders, people all along the entire 200 miles were standing in the cold weather.