I must confess that I have wanted to watch the movie American Sniper for a while. Long before I had seen the movie (or read the book), Chris Kyle’s story had interested me. I was recently given a copy of the book of the same name, and then received the movie as well…so here goes a brief monologue.
American Sniper follows Chris Kyle, a Texan, cowboy, and then Navy Seal sniper who served four tours in Iraq. The movie lays out his life up until he joins the Navy, and then spends the majority of time looking at his four tours overseas. Two aspects of the film that I particularly liked (and were present in the book as well), were how the story integrated the family into the story, as well as showing the effects that war has on people emotionally. The film draws out the tension that is created between Chris’s desire to be in the field saving soldiers, and the need for him to be home with his family. This is one aspect I found that added significant depth to the film -the movie showed how the family left at home was affected by war just as the soldier in the field was. The movie also displays how war is destructive -not just in a physical way, but also in a more subtle manner. Throughout the film the wear and tear of war is shown to debilitate the men involved -men who come home and struggle to re-integrate with normal life, men who are changed by the sights and horrors of death. While so many war films focus simply on the physical toll that war takes on men, the fact that American Sniper dealt with something deeper reminds me of a couple paragraphs that C.S. Lewis spoke during the early stages of WWII:
“What does war do to death? It certainly does not make it more
frequent; 100 percent of us die, and the percentage cannot be increased. It
puts several deaths earlier, but I hardly suppose that that is what we fear.
Certainly when the moment comes, it will make little difference how many
years we have behind us.
Does it increase our chances of a painful death? I doubt it. As far as I
can ﬁnd out, what we call natural death is usually preceded by suffering, […]
and a battleﬁeld is one of the very few places where one has a reasonable
prospect of dying with no pain at all. Does it decrease our chances of
dying at peace with God? I cannot believe it. If active service does not
persuade a man to prepare for death, what conceivable concatenation of
circumstances would? Yet war does do something to death. It forces us to
remember it.” Learning in War-Time
Death is not natural, and is it any wonder that those forced to live amid it, and be its instruments, come back scarred?
American Sniper, both the book and the movie, remind us of the great sacrifice that many have made to fight for our country -both those in the field and those left at home. And while it is easy to get bogged down in discussions of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ wars, the undeniable truth is that God has blessed us, especially the Church, with more freedom here than anywhere else on the planet (and maybe in history), and he is using men to protect this nation -with all of its flaws -to help preserve those liberties. American Sniper is not just a way to remember the deadliest sniper in American history, but also a way to be reminded that the freedoms that we do enjoy come at a tremendous cost.