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American Sniper is a 2014 biographical propaganda war film directed by Clint Eastwood. It is loosely based on a similarly titled autobiographical book (ISBN 9780062082350) written by Chris Kyle (1974–2013), who is the protagonist of the story and is considered the deadliest sniper in American history, with 160 officially confirmed kills. The film was highly successful, with a worldwide gross of $547 million. It also was nominated for several Oscars, including Best Picture, but lost to Birdman, which of course made Fox News, Rush Limbaugh and so forth complain about a liberal conspiracy to deny the film its "rightful" prize. As it is a Hollywood movie, it is filled with various factual errors.
The movie starts as Chris Kyle is about to shoot a Muslim woman and child plotting to throw a grenade at a Marine platoon. The film goes back when he was a child shooting a deer with his father. It was also when his father harshly disciplined him and his brother to avoid being either a victim or a "wolf."
Then, in Texas, after growing up, it is revealed he is a rodeo cowboy. He goes back home one day to find his girlfriend with another man, and kicks him out. This scene has some misogynistic undertones. All his troubles start here: when Chris is contemplating with his brother how much of a bitch she was, he views the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings on television. He enlists in the Navy, and becomes a SEAL sniper.
Chris meets Taya Renae at a bar, and the two marry. When in their house Chris finds Renae crying all of a sudden upon her seeing the 9/11 attacks on television. Chris leaves for war after this.
Going back to the first scene in the movie, Chris Kyle kills the mother and child as both attempted to bomb the marines. Chris is visibly upset by the experience but later earns the nickname "Legend" for his many kills. Assigned to hunt for the al-Qaeda leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, Chris interrogates a family whose father offers to lead the SEALs to "The Butcher", al-Zarqawi's second-in-command (fortunately the film didn't directly portray the family as a terrorist group, as it does with many Muslims; but rather as a group of victims). The plan goes awry when The Butcher captures the father and his son (the latter killed by using a hole in his head), killing them while Chris is pinned down by a sniper. This sniper goes by the name Mustafa and is an Olympic Games medalist from Syria. Meanwhile, the insurgents issue a bounty on Chris.
Chris returns home to his wife and the birth of his son. He is distracted by memories of his war experiences. The wife is upset at Chris's obliviousness to the family.
Chris leaves for a second tour. Involved in a shootout with The Butcher, he helps in killing him. When he returns home after that, even with a newborn daughter he grows distant from his family.
On Chris' third tour, Mustafa seriously injures a unit member, and the unit is evacuated back to base. When they decide to return to the field and continue the mission, another SEAL is killed by gunfire.
And yet he goes on a fourth tour. Back in Iraq, Chris is assigned to kill Mustafa, who has been sniping U.S. Army combat engineers building a barricade. Chris' sniper team is placed on a rooftop inside enemy territory. Chris spots Mustafa and takes him out with an impossibly risky long distance shot at 2100 yards (1920 meters), but this exposes his team's position to numerous armed insurgents. In the midst of the firefight, and low on ammunition, Chris tearfully calls Taya and tells her he is ready to come home. A sandstorm provides cover for a chaotic escape in which Chris is injured and almost left behind.
Chris gets back home and is clearly traumatized. This is evidenced by his auditory flashbacks of gunshots and agony, and a scene in a party where Chris pins down a dog after an infant's trivial helplessness. He seeks Veteran Affairs help, and the psychiatrist recommends helping other veterans. It works.
On February 2, 2013, a healthy Chris says goodbye and leaves his family for a while to help a veteran. An on-screen subtitle reveals: "Chris Kyle was killed that day by a veteran he was trying to help", followed by stock footage of crowds standing along the highway for his funeral procession.
The film has numerous dishonesties that represent the Iraqi citizens as an evil group. Among these are…
- The film claims the U.S. invaded Iraq over 9/11 (no mention of George W. Bush or Saddam Hussein anywhere).
- The film presents the war as a response to al Qaeda, when it was the opposite. Chris Kyle's first mission is against al Qaeda in Iraq.
- Iraqis are terrorist savages refusing to let the Americans civilize them. In the film, most of the Iraqi citizens are indistinguishable from Al Qaeda. Therefore, they are all evil. In fact al Qaeda was an enemy to the Iraqis.
- The sniper named Mustafa. He gets a single paragraph in the book but the movie falsely expands on him, even saying he was a Syrian Olympic medal winner. This expands upon the illusion that many national heroes of Arab countries are like terrorists.
- The film portrays Chris as tormented by the war. While the trauma any soldier can get after a war is accurate, this is absent in the book the movie was based on. In fact Chris loved killing: "I loved what I did. I still do. If circumstances were different – if my family didn’t need me – I’d be back in a heartbeat. I’m not lying or exaggerating to say it was fun. I had the time of my life being a SEAL." This quote even disregards his family. What the war really did was turn him into a monster, one day falsely claiming to have shot dozens in Post-Katrina New Orleans.[note 1]
- The film avoids the point that Kyle, one of the most highly trained shooters in the world, was shot to death on American soil while surrounded by firearms. Probably out of fear that this deflates arguments about the usefulness of guns as defensive tools.
- The portrayal of the war as a white-and-black fight for good and evil. Since Chris was the sheepdog, al Qaeda was the group of wolves. Iraqis are either wolves or collateral damage. In short the film is very careful to portray any Iraqi as evil or helpless.
- The baby.
Considering this is a historical-fiction film, critics have pointed out the blatant inaccuracies in the film: The sniper Mustafa is portrayed as a "sharp-shooting, marine-murdering nemesis" despite having but a few lines in the book.
- Which, to be fair, is marginally better than being honest about shooting dozens of people in New Orleans
- How Accurate Is American Sniper?