"Language, as well as the faculty of speech, was the immediate gift of God." ~ Noah Webster

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Hungry for Heroes

The new movie American Sniper based on the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle grossed one hundred million dollars on its opening weekend. Selma the highly acclaimed movie (by the left) only reached a ten million dollar mark opening on the same weekend as American Sniper. Clearly American Sniper is a success.

My son and I having read Chris’s book when it came out, have anticipated this movie for a long time.  When we heard Bradley Cooper would be playing the part of Chief Chris Kyle, we were sick. We just couldn’t picture that “pretty boy” doing justice to our American hero. When we heard Clint Eastwood would be directing it, we were relieved and thrilled. We had been afraid if Hollywood got a hold of this story they would decimate it with the typical Hollywood leftist ideology.

I believe Chris’s story is one of the most important stories of our modern times. I simply do not want that messed up. So of course, I had to write. Here is my unprofessional, emotional, probably biased review.

For starters, I was wrong about Bradley Cooper not being able to capture the essence of Chris Kyle. I am not a big movie buff, but in every movie I have ever watched I have never seen an actor or actress portray anyone so accurately. Cooper nailed it! I was so thankful and respectful of the mannerisms, dialect, and personality he was able to perfect. Cooper even had the mouth positioning down in the way that Chris held his mouth at certain times – in reflection; listening; determination. I smiled to myself when I saw the first movie trailer, weeks before the movie came out. Cooper must have had to learn to chew tobacco, to get that mouth positioning down so perfectly. His voice and dialect could have been Chris. I don’t know how he did that! Bradley Cooper does NOT sound like that. The man can act! Because he gained 40 pounds to more accurately look like Chris is commendable. To me, that shows his concern to get the movie correct. He had the stature, the physical appearance; the dress; the accent; all of it just about as perfect as it could be. Alrighty then; not gonna worry about Bradley Cooper!

I cried each time I watched the trailer. It was accurate, it didn’t show too much, and because I had read the book, I knew what the message was in that scene. I couldn’t wait to see the movie.

The long awaited day came early.  The movie was expected to start showing Jan 16th, but my son called me on the 15th saying there was an early showing that evening at our local theatre. Our schedules worked perfectly; we got to go.

For starters, I want to say I am extremely happy this movie did so well. It broke records for opening weekend. That is saying something. And I believe I know what it is. America is hungry for heroes. America understands a lot more than the liberal media would have us believe. In the heart of America, there are a lot more people that “get it” than there are those who do not.

I have yet to hear any criticism for the movie from people on the right. I have heard a whole lot from people on the left. That tells us a great deal, too. It is a movie that needs to be seen. There are lessons that should be drawn from it. America needs more Chris Kyles.

With that said, I want to share my views.  I don’t want it to appear I am criticizing the movie, because I believe in the story; but I am a bit concerned about a few of the messages that some will have to consider as they watch the movie. Let me express what I view as inaccurate with a movie that if one had not read the book, one would not know. Instead, they will believe everything that happened in the movie is fact. It’s not.

Let me start with a quote from Charles Dickens. I love it. It shows Dickens’ guideline for how he wrote. It’s important, because in my opinion. Chris Kyle also understood this when he wrote…the movie did not.
"I saw no reason when I wrote this book, why the very dregs of life, so long as their speech did not offend the ear, should not serve the purpose of a moral, at least as well as its froth and cream.”
This quote gives us an idea of how authors wrote in the past. In my opinion, the movie shared more sexual content than Kyle forced us to read. And yes, the book was full of bad language, but the movie was over the top with “f-bombs”, that Kyle did not force us to endure in the book.

For me, the language and sexual content (though certainly not as bad as most R-rated movies) detracted from the movie. I just don’t like to see that in what I watch, so I normally don’t watch movies with more than a PG-13 rating. No, I am not na├»ve. I knew what to expect, when I saw the R-rating. I am just saying Kyle was a gentleman and he didn’t force us to read much of what we had to view in the movie. That’s all I am saying. Whether Chris had ever read Dickens or not, he understood the need to not say too much. He protected his readers as he protected his brothers in arms. He refused to tell all, even as he protected his wife from too many details about his war experiences. I believe that fact gives us valuable insight into who Chris really was.

Equally, Chris spared us too many details in the graphic violence he endured - the truth of war. For the most part, Chris protected us from that in his book. Letting us know they are savages, is almost “enough said”. I love that about Chris Kyle.

That said, I do believe this movie was not as bad in that regard as most R rated films. And like I said, I know I am a wimp when it comes to things like that. Most people would probably not let those things detract from the movie for them; for me it did.

Having read the book, I knew immediately this wasn’t going to be a perfect accounting of what happened. In the opening scene, the movie depicted Chris having to take out a young boy and his mom.  That didn’t happen.  He took out the mom as his first kill. She was going to blow up both herself and her child. It is my thought that the only reason they changed this fact, that as bad as it was that they use children to launch grenades, it is even worse that a mom would blow up her child. It seems the writers did not want to portray just that little extra bit of edge that is true in this “religion”.  This is just my best guess. I pondered why they changed these facts. I would have preferred the truth.

Later in the movie, they showed Chris basically “playing with a firearm”. They showed him pointing it at his wife, in fun; in some kind of playful nature. It is my opinion, Chris NEVER would have done this. “Never point a gun at someone” is a strict policy of gun education. One should not point a gun at anyone ever! Even if they know the gun isn’t loaded! This was a huge error by the film makers, in my opinion. And I don’t believe it really happened. And if it did, it should have been left out of the movie, instead of possibly pacifying a leftist agenda that would believe even professionals probably shouldn’t have guns. This scene showed that even professionals do things they shouldn’t with firearms. It just isn’t so. That sent a very bad message, and an opportunity for the left to attack the content.  After Chris and Taya were through “playing around”, the movie very purposefully showed Chris placing the gun on top of a bookshelf, out of reach for the children playing nearby - but barely. I think Chris would have locked up that pistol. I was very disheartened by this scene. Eastwood dropped the ball on that one. And it was an important point.

Next, Chris was a Christian. Though he may not have always walked like we think most Christians should, his faith was very real. He knew from Whom came his salvation. He knew where to turn in crisis. He knew and believed in the God of the Bible and unashamedly stated that at the end of his book:
“Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows.  I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation.”
Chris’s faith was extremely important to him. The movie showed him always carrying a little New Testament with him. This is true; he did. The movie also shows Mark Lee questioning Chris in regard to whether he ever read it. I worry that this left the viewer with the idea that Chris was questioning his faith. That simply isn’t true. The truth is Mark Lee led these men in prayer before every operation they did. These two men were Christians. I wish they would have depicted the reality of their commitment to their faith. I’m probably nit-picking, but this is important to me. That part of Chris is also what makes him such a great hero for our nation; especially our youth.

I am extremely thankful, they included in the movie that Chris said he had no regret for any shot he took. He was saving lives in doing so. This story is far greater about life than death. His story isn’t about killing like the left would have us believe. It is about saving lives. I hope people with take that away from the movie and fully understand it.

Chris continues in his book:
“But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them. Everyone I shot was evil. I had good cause on every shot. They all deserved to die.”
I believe him.

He understands the evil of war. He knows the enemy. I simply want the truth about that war to be exposed. I want the truth if a story is going to be made into film. I wish they hadn’t changed Chris’s words. He knows. He lived them.

It is my sense, that this movie more accurately portrays Taya’s viewpoint that Chris’s. That is to be expected. She is a hero, too, for all that she had to endure. But I find myself wondering had Chris lived and been here to oversee the movie, what would have changed? And I do not mean for this to be criticism of Taya. Of course her view of the war would be different than Chris’s. She has always supported our heroes and still does.

One thing that I question about the movie is that it depicted his fellow soldiers being angry at him for bringing fire down on them when he took a shot that the movie portrayed as strictly as a means of revenge or vengeance for the death of Mark Lee and injury of Ryan Job. This supposed anger from his brothers was not written about in Chris’s book.* Neither did Chris ever come in contact with the enemy sniper, Mustafa. He stated that fact plainly and purposefully in his book on page 139.

Maybe the writers of the movie did gather that information from their sources; i.e. Chris and Taya’s email, interviews; records; whatever, about some anger from his brothers. But I doubt it. The important truth of the matter is, Chris didn’t put it in his book, so I question the accuracy. And if nothing else, if it is true, Chris did not want that information exposed or he would have included it in the book. I would have preferred the writers honor the book as closely as possible.  These are the reasons, I feel that – like me – family and friends are not as happy as we could have been with the movie.

Had Chris lived, I am confident, there would have been more about the heroism of his brothers-in-arms. I can be confident, because it’s what his book is about! His book isn’t about Chris Kyle as much as it is about the heroism of these warriors. Ryan Job, sitting in front of an American flag just to hear it flap in the breeze, even though he was blinded by battle wounds was extremely important to Chris. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t have ended up on the cutting room floor. Mark Lee and his heroic effort to warn his brothers would have been emphasized.  I know they can’t tell everything in a two hour movie, and I am probably wrong to feel this way, but when I watched the movie, I would have liked to feel what Chris tried to tell in the book. And that is all of our soldiers are heroes. They love and sacrifice for this nation. They do it without reservation. They stand by one another. Americans need to stand behind each and every one of them. That’s what Chris would want to come from his story. I heard him say it in interviews. I think the movie dropped the ball on that one.  That wouldn’t have happened if Chris was still alive.

And I almost hate to say it because I have no knowledge of it, but I’m pretty sure the scene with his younger brother, wouldn’t have been included in the film. It wasn’t in the book. I didn’t like that they portrayed the younger brother on verge of breakdown, cursing the war. Perhaps that was true, I don’t know. But Chris didn’t put it in his book; why not respect that?

There were a couple more things that were a bit troubling for me that I wish would have been closer to the truth. In the movie, they showed Chris being released early from his service. He stated in the book that he finished his last tour to completion, he just didn’t reenlist when it was finished. That is an important fact for me.

Finally, the movie depicted Chris dropping his rifle at the end of the movie, leaving it in the dirt while trying to grab the hand that would save him from being left behind. Certainly, dropping a rifle might be expected if one was running for one’s life. But I don’t think that happened (according to the book).  After the movie had detailed in opening scenes that his father had taught him to never drop his rifle or leave it in the dirt, I didn’t like the correlation. It wasn’t necessary, in my opinion.

In the 1960’s this movie would have been viewed as ant-war, anti-gun. I listened over and over to my own father’s commentaries that we should watch for and protect truth. We should be discerning of subtle agendas in modern day movies. This movie wouldn’t have gone over well in my childhood home, though it is poignant and necessary for today.

I believe to some degree, the movie missed Chris’s heart. His belief in his country, his faith, his respect of the 2nd amendment and even the 1st amendment for which he fought were not highlighted enough to bring proper honor to this great American hero. I do believe the movie accurately portrayed his servant heart. And I believe it did not glorify war, but told of the evil of war, which Chris would have wanted.

Finally, after the movie had been released, I watched interviews with Chris’s dad and some of his friends. They were all perfect gentlemen, and very careful not to run down the movie. At the same time, I thought they were true to their core beliefs, being very careful not to throw their complete support behind the movie. If one is carefully discerning, one could see the lack of full support for what the movie portrayed in his friends' interviews and the ones with his dad. None would criticize; but neither would they be untrue to their core beliefs. They are better, than me. It is my suspicion they had the same problems with the movie that I did. That is probably very brass and bold of me to say that. I don’t know any of them. And I certainly should not argue with Taya, Chris’s wife. These are simply personal observations from watching interviews of Chris; reading the book; and reading the memorial edition with stories from his family and friends. That is the only information I have about Chris Kyle. 

Maybe none of my thoughts matter. Maybe I should be silent on my criticisms as those close to Chris have been.  If that is true, I am ok with that, please feel free to comment. One thing I know, the film needed to be made and it needs to be supported because our nation is in need of valiant heroes.

America is hungry for heroes. The box office numbers validate that. The lack of criticism for any part of this movie - other than people from the left - lets me know how badly we want Chris’s story told. America needs heroes. Heroes make us better. We emulate what we look up to and respect. We have neglected to honor our heroes for some time through media. We have gotten off track in who seems to make the list of national heroes: actors; athletes; musicians. Those are not real heroes. America gets that; and this movies shows our need, desire and acceptance of a real hero.

We have one in Chief Chris Kyle.
Enjoy the movie! Support the movie! Take hold of and respect this chance to honor a hero in such a wide-spread and magnanimous way; but as always - don't forget to read the book.
*Please take a moment to watch the video I have posted below. It shows the true humility of Chris Kyle and his fantastic sense of humor. I have posted it on my blog before, to demonstrate why I have such respect for Chris Kyle. I post it here with this post, because in this single video clip, he refutes a main narrative of the movie that is factually incorrect. The movie leads us to believe that because of that "revengeful" shot Chris took, his brothers were angry with him for bringing fire down on them.  The truth is, after any shot Chris and his team would then be exposed to the enemy, which would of course then bring fire down on them. That was the norm! They always knew that was to be expected, and they would have to be prepared. This is exactly why he took a team with him. The initial shot would begin the battle. No one was angry! A battle was expected to ensue! Please listen and learn; this truth is so very important. In the process you will also get some valuable insight into who Chris Kyle really was...and come away with a heartwarming chuckle from this great American hero. Let the truth be known.

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