Eddie Ray Routh hardly knew Chris Kyle when he shot the latter dead on Feb 2, 2013 at Rough Creek Ranch shooting range, a remote location in Eastern Texas. Routh admitted to killing Kyle and Kyle’s friend & shooting range companion that day, Chad Littlefield, almost immediately following his arrest. Routh himself is a war veteran and was (and perhaps still is) coping with PTSD. The story goes that Kyle invited Routh to go to the shooting range with him that day, in an effort to help him deal with that trauma.
“Those who live by the sword…die by the sword” – As insensitive as it may sound, the life, legacy and the death of Chris Kyle are all a reasonable testament to that very saying.
Clint Eastwood (conveniently??) stays away from detailing this tragic end to one of America’s “heroic” marksmen, in his somewhat of a subtle propaganda driven movie, “American Sniper”. He also downplays and doesn’t spend much time (at all) detailing the trauma that Chris Kyle was supposedly dealing with after his return from combat. As I read the story of Chris Kyle from different sources (no – not all of them are liberal sources. Fair share conservative sources too included in this), one thing was clear. Clint Eastwood took extreme creative liberties to paint an alternative persona of Chris Kyle to the point that he came across as a reluctant warrior – a guy who didn’t want to kill, which is the exact opposite of the Chris Kyle I got to know from all sources alike.
Chris Kyle was a self-proclaimed redneck from Texas who grew up with guns. He was a damn good shooter, even as a kid and was raised by an extremely rooted father who once over a family meal says, “There are only three types of people in this world – sheep, wolves and sheepdogs”. He continues..”the job of the sheepdog is to protect the sheep from the evil wolves”. There may be a clear & an intentional reference here – that snipers are like sheepdogs. And in the context of the movie, the wolves are Iraqis, thus automatically making them evil. It is clear that the director had no intention of portraying the Iraqi fighters as those simply protecting their land from a foreign army’s invasion. (I will leave it to you to answer the question “Who wouldn’t?”).
When Clint Eastwood, the director shows Kyle and his squad celebrating when they get the news that they were getting deployed to Iraq immediately after a scene where the director shows a real CNN live footage of the second plane hitting the twin towers on 09/11, it is hard for me not to see the intentional reference there as well. An attempt to establish a direct connection between 09/11 and Iraq (which close to 50% of the country still believes today).
“I don’t shoot people with Qurans. I’d like to but I don’t,” Kyle had reportedly said to one of the military investigators after killing an innocent Iraqi civilian. In his memoir, Kyle had also written “I couldn’t give a fuck about the Iraqis” and “I hate the damn savages.” And in more than one place in the book, Kyle refers to the Iraqis as savages. Yes. Iraqis in general. My point is this – I see the director here working very hard to establish the already pooh-poohed connection between 09/11 and Iraq, somehow, in 2015, in this day and age, when everyone who is sane has pretty much concluded that in the history of the many meaningless wars that United States has waged, this Iraq war ranks in the top, both in terms of how far the then administration laid out its false propaganda to sell this war to its citizens and in terms of the devastating impact that the cost of the war itself had on the American people and the country’s economy, whose wrath we still are trying to turn away from.
Clint Eastwood is a master director – so to expect anything less than a good movie from him is impossible.
Stories don’t matter – If it is a Clint movie, an intense portrayal of the characters and their relationships built over a series of acutely developed situations and a narration style that is emotionally subtle but powerfully raw are what one could expect at a minimum. And “American Sniper” meets all of the expectations above. But I couldn’t accept the way Clint went about telling the story by taking some creative liberties (which in sensitive true stories such as this could be termed borderline radically sensational). I do not know how a story that is centered around Iraq war could be told in such a propaganda like manner by a capable director like Clint, notwithstanding his personal political proclivities. And given that this book is based on Kyle’s autobiography, as much as I would like to appreciate Clint for ignoring the ‘unverified stuff’ that Kyle supposedly made up while writing that book (which according to me took away a lot of sheen from the marksman’s lore), wouldn’t it have been more appropriate to somehow make a reference to that aspect of the personality that made Chris Kyle who he was, in addition to some of the conveniently missed portions of Kyle’s life? I wish Clint Eastwood had focused more on the effects the war had on Kyle based on what really happened in Kyle’s life.
All of 39, here was a man, whose scorecard read 160 enemy KIAs (killed in action) out of 250 probable kills. Here was a man who went on four separate tours to Iraq. Here was a man who was termed as the “Devil of Ramadi” by Iraqi insurgents(!!) because he came back again and again, each time with more kill targets, which his commanders unrealistically thought he could accomplish and which he actually did accomplish. Here was a man, who struggled to carry the burden of being arguably the most lethal sniper in the history of United States military. Here was a man, who lived his life by the motto “God, Country and Family” – strictly in that order and had no qualms about mercilessly killing people. Here was a man, who was awarded many commendation medals for his service in combat and for protecting his fellow marines. Here was a man who was called the “Legend” for all the reasons above.
As I walked out the theater, I couldn’t stop wondering how many more Kyles we will keep creating, how many more of them will be sent to occupy other countries in the name of spreading democracy and freedom, and how many of them will use this 160 KIAs as a record to beat!