There’s something unique about American Sniper. If this were just another modern war movie, Chris Kyle might be portrayed as a replica of the hollowed out versions of the soldiers we often see splashed across the big screen. Their faces smeared with sand and eyes void of emotion. Their only value derived from acts of courage during a heated battle scene. But this movie goes deeper and delivers an important lesson.
American Sniper — directed by Clint Eastwood and opening in limited theaters on Dec. 25 — is based on the true story of U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, portrayed impressively by Bradley Cooper. The film shares the story of a man who, even as a boy, saw himself as someone bound to protect those around him. Kyle lived by a simple code that drove his dedication to the men he served alongside, a sentiment that binds together many of us who have served. Kyle’s infectious passion to accomplish a mission took him through four tours in Iraq and 160 confirmed kills, earning him the nickname “Legend.”
Over the past decade, many, through cinema, have experienced the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan through explosions and gunfire. Yet, there is no realization of the lives that our service members and veterans live in between the battlefield and the home front. American Sniper takes the audience through the complexities of war and the families who have lived through it. There are noble struggles for hardened souls and the quest to find a sense of normalcy, which Eastwood and Cooper have found a way to accurately portray.
Kyle, with pinpoint precision, quells the threat of enemies hiding in alleys waiting to ambush American convoys. His dedication to the mission causes the sounds of war to echo at home as he contemplates the lives he could have saved. In the same manner, the responsibilities of life and family are ever present for him on the battlefield. It’s through this journey that we see the depth of the man, once the uniform comes off. In the movie, a SEAL says, “You can’t shoot what you can’t see,” yet somehow Eastwood has managed to capture the dichotomy of traveling home from the battlefield and back again like no director has before.
When Eastwood and Cooper move beyond the reputation of Kyle, we begin to understand the true value of a battle-tested veteran. As Kyle helps his fellow veterans cope with loss of limbs and reintegration challenges, he is able to exorcise his own demons. “Why do you do it?” a veteran asks Kyle as they shoot at a range. His response: “We take care of each other, right?”
I have spoken with many veterans who have screened American Sniper, and they all say the same thing: this movie gets it right. American Sniper is in a new breed of Hollywood war films. It is an inspiration for how to properly and thoughtfully showcase veterans and the reintegration process — a model the entertainment industry should adopt more often.
American Sniper is also the quintessential example of the types of portrayals of veterans that Got Your 6 — a coalition of 30 veteran-focused nonprofits — is promoting in film and television as a way to demonstrate the nuance of the veteran experience. As Hollywood continues to tell the stories of those who have served, deployed, and returned home, depictions like these help bridge the civilian-military divide. American Sniper is the story of a man who ultimately succeeded on the battlefield and at home –and we all have responsibility to recount it.
Chris Marvin is a retired Army Black Hawk helicopter pilot, a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and the managing director of the Got Your 6 campaign.
Clint Eastwood’s latest film is American Sniper, which is based on Chris Kyle’s memoir about his service in Iraq. Bradley Cooper stars as the Navy SEAL. The movie will open December 25th in select major cities and January 16th all over the USA.
Most folks think about Clint as an actor but American Sniper represents his 34th feature film as a director. As we count down the days until Sniper hits theaters, here are five great military films directed by Eastwood. +Continue Reading
Former SEALS Marcus Luttrell and Robert O’Neill love them some football.
If you’re a football coach selling that “football is war” metaphor to your team, which high-profile SEAL veteran do you want to deliver that pregame motivational speech? The one wrote a book about his heroism under orders from the brass or the one who some say broke the code by going on TV to announce that he was the guy who took out Osama bin Laden?
Last Saturday, Lone Survivor author Marcus Luttrell gave a pregame speech to the University of Alabama Crimson Tide before they took on the #1 Mississippi State Bulldogs. The Washington Redskins brought in the newly famous Robert O’Neill on Saturday night to inspire the squad before their Sunday home game against the woeful 1–8 Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Guess what happened. +Continue Reading
Lady Valor is a documentary film about Kristin Beck, a former Navy SEAL who came out as a transgendered woman on Anderson Cooper’s CNN program in 2013. The network then commissioned this film, aired it last month and now it’s available on VOD and DVD from Wolfe Video. Kristin Beck comes off as exactly the sort of badass you’d expect a special ops warrior to be. Over the course of an interview about her Navy career as Christopher Beck, she calmly describes her resumé and it’s spectacular.
The movie is aimed at everyone who’s not predisposed to understand or accept Kristin Beck’s transformation and highlights the role the United States Military has historically played in changing mainstream America’s attitudes about race, religion, national origin and sexuality. Beck thinks transgendered Americans can and will serve their country as well as anyone else. +Continue Reading
Navy SEALs: Their Untold Story is the first comprehensive history of the special operations force and it’s the companion book to a new PBS documentary by the same name. Written by former SEAL Dick Couch in collaboration with William Doyle (who also co-authored Chris Kyle’s American Gun), the book goes all the way back to the World War II underwater demolition teams and continues through the formal creation of the SEAL program in 1962 all the way up to the present day.
It’s most definitely an overview: the authors cover dozens of events and incidents that could all support their own detailed histories, but they do a great job of putting the entire story into context. Some of the stories are familiar but Couch and Doyle do a great job of putting them into historical context.
Dick Couch talked to us last week about the book, his own SEAL career and had some strong words about what was then the upcoming revelation by a former SEAL who says he’s the guy who shot Osama bin Laden. (That guy’s name is now out there and there are a more than a few of his SEAL brothers who aren’t happy about it.) +Continue Reading
Bradley Cooper acquired the move rights to legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s bestselling memoir American Sniper shortly before Kyle was killed by a fellow veteran in February 2013. After a false start with Steven Spielberg, Clint Eastwood stepped in to direct the film and the first trailer just debuted online. +Continue Reading
The U.S. Navy Parachute Team (a/k/a the “Leap Frogs”) is made up of Navy SEAL frogmen on loan from their team or NSW units. This video details their mission as one of the public faces of the United States Military.
Check out more great military videos at Military.com’s video channel.
Former Navy SEAL Cade Courtley hosts America Unplugged, now showing on Thursdays at 8pm ET on the Sportsman Channel. Each of the eight episodes profiles one of the estimated 400,000 Americans who choose to live off the grid. The show doesn’t sensationalize their choices. It’s about the mechanics of how these people choose to live more than it is about what motivated the decision in the first place.
As part of its promotion for the Lone Survivor Blu-ray and DVD release, Universal Pictures took a busload of journalists from DC down to Chesapeake, VA for the Extreme SEAL Experience, a kind of special forces fantasy camp run by former Navy SEAL Don Shipley.
Shipley’s got the legit credentials. He graduated BUD/S in class 131 in 1985 and later served on SEAL Team One and SEAL Team Two. After his Navy service, he worked with Erik Prince at Blackwater before creating the Extreme SEAL Program. +Continue Reading
Lone Survivor is out this week on Blu-ray and DVD. The movie is based on former Navy SEAL Marcus Luttrell’s best-selling memoir about the 2005 Operation Redwing in Afghanistan. The movie, directed by Peter Berg and starring Mark Wahlberg as Luttrell, was a gigantic hit in the United States, grossing over $125 million on a reported $40 million budget. +Continue Reading