This isn’t your typical war movie, it’s aim is to take an artistic view of the shell shocked psyche of the American soldier in the aftermath of modern warfare, featuring everything from civilian control through terror techniques to war drone technology.
The problem with the movie is it takes you on the journey of one individual, Chris Kyle, who we follow with minute detail as he evolves from a boy, to a young man, to a husband, to a hero, to a war veteran with a troubled conscience. The problem with that is that the journey is slow moving and its transgressional nature makes it a bit hard to watch. It nearly punishes its audience into walking in the man’s shoes so that they can understand how the war actually impacts on his life.
The film has a lot going for it though, from the relaxed summer shots of family life in America, BBQ’s in green gardens, beers with friends, and the warm rush of hunting fields to the contrasting barren landscape of war torn Iraq.
The film also has a lot of realistic scenes that you’d expect from a war movie, like when Sienna Miller gets sick from drinking too much whiskey, if there is one thing I can’t stand in films these days it’s the amount of drinking that goes on without anyone falling over.
The film’s final scenes cleverly feature a well placed copy of B.F. Skinner’s ‘Science and Human Behaviour’ which is a precursor to behaviourism and explores possible ways in which human behaviour can be predicted and controlled. This one prop says a lot about why one American citizen decided to join a war fought on foreign soil, and his motivations to continue in a personal battle despite the emotional and physical impact it takes on the soldiers who fight with him. In that sense this is a story about Chris Kyle being caught in the eye of the storm, as it’s savage power desolates everyone around him. That’s what gives the film a case for being an anti-war film, even though if you ask me an anti war movie is more like Dr Strangelove, The Last King of Scotland, or Gandhi.
The film’s plot also disappoints, part of the reason the movie is hard to watch is that there is a lack of storyline that boils down to a Marines version of Moby Dick.
The film lacks an entertainment factor and feels a bit like a blockbuster exploration into the psychological aftermath of war, which is an important statement as a generation of young Americans have been affected by this war, but most Europeans were not in favour of the war and void of the patriotic feelings that drive Chris Kyle (to protect Family, Country and God), so perhaps the movie has a select audience. If you’re already of the view that war should be avoided where sanctions can be implemented and if you’re already aware that war is more like Braveheart than Rambo then you’re not going to take anything away from the film. So congrats to Clint for making a war movie with some thought and the utmost respect to the boys who make up Team America but if you’re looking for a good evening at the cinema it doesn’t feature high up on the list as one to watch.