American Sniper is a biographical film about war hero Chris Kyle. The movie loosely based on the novel about his life. It follows the life of Chris Kyle, U. S. Navy S.E.A.L Kyle became one of the deadliest snipers, serving four tours in the Iraq War, with over 255 kills and 160 that were documented by the U.S. Defense department. The film, tells the story of the heavy toll that the war took on him and his family life.
The movie begins with how he learned to shoot, where he met his wife, and the background for the story. The movie then goes into detail about the most emotionally damaging of his kills and how he reacted to them. After the war he returns home to his wife and his son is born. He tries to reintegrate into life at home, but like many who suffer from PTSD, this is easier said than done. Soon his memories of what happened to him in Iraq distract him and begin to take a toll on his marriage. Chis then leaves for a second tour. He returns home to a newborn daughter, but the distance between his wife Taya and himself increase.
During Kyle’s third tour, he witnesses several of his buddies injured. He feels guilty for the harm done to his buddies and decides to return for a fourth tour of duty. This time Taya tells him that she is considering leaving and might not be there when he returns. He gets in a life threatening position and calls his wife to tell her he is ready to come home. When he gets back, he tells the VA psychiatrist that he feels guilty for all of his buddies that he could not save. He begins volunteering at VA to help severely wounded veterans. This helps him begin to adjust a little. The film ends when he leaves to go to a shooting range, finally happy and adjusted. He and his friend were killed by a man at the shooting range. The movie ends with his funeral.
Are We Really Free?
Freedom means the ability to think, believe, speak, worship, and generally act as one chooses, as long as it falls within the limits that society has placed on those actions (Treder). Chris Kyle fought in Iraq with the large purpose of eliminating threats to the freedom of his fellow Americans back home. When he came home with PTSD, he was not truly free from the horrors of war.
In Chapter 26 of Machiavelli’s The Prince, the author pronounces a passionate cry to liberate Italy from the barbarians. Machiavelli proposes that sometimes the captivity of a certain group is necessary so that the abilities of the greats can rise to the top and be recognized. For instance, he says that the people of Israel had to be captive in order for the works of Moses to become known. In this argument, Machiavelli found that sometimes the captivity of a people serves a higher purpose or the greater good. In the case of Chris Kyle, his death brought national attention to the problems of PTSD and the need to find solutions. It brought awareness of the struggles of military families and their loved ones. It has led to national discussion of the topic, which will hopefully lead to solutions that will help other veterans heal and reintegrate into society.
Judith Buttler argues that some lives are worth protecting and other are not (18). Buttler argues that to declare a right to life is to fail to acknowledge the degenerative processes that are behind the end to which all life will come at some point. In this acknowledgment, Buttler argues that essentially life is not a right but a process. In the movie, Kyle’s first kill was a woman and child who were actually enemy combatants. This memory was one of the worst in terms of an emotional impact on Kyle. When one frames this dilemma with Buttler’s Right to Life discussion, the issue becomes complex. Kyle’s guilt stemmed from a belief in the right of the mother and especially the child, to have a right to life. This was pitted against his needs in his own right to life and those of other members of the unit. The question is when does this right to life end. The answer to this, as portrayed in the movie, is when one tries to take the life of another. This creates a conflict because the movie shows a war where both sides thought they were right and that the other had lost their right to life.
The story of Chris Kyle brings up the complexities of the issue of freedom. In the war, both sides felt that the other was imposing on their freedom to do as they pleased. Both parties have overlapping interests in preserving their way of life and in protecting their freedom to live. Using Buttler’s outlook on the right to life, each is reminded that even without war, everyone’s life will eventually run out. So is war just an extension of the natural processes of deterioration, or does everyone have the right to live out their fully natural lifespan, without any hindrance from others? These are questions that must be pondered when thinking about the issues surrounding freedom portrayed in American Sniper.
When Chris Kyle came back from the war he was not truly free until he could overcome his memories of the war. The enemies that he killed did not feel that the American’s had the right to impede their ability to do as they please, which included taking the lives of others before their natural lifespan had ended. Yet, in order to remedy that situation, the American soldiers had to take their life early. This becomes a complex issue that brings up questions like where one person’s freedom ends and another’s begins. It seems that freedoms involve the drawing of lines, boundaries, and restrictions on freedom. From this stance, it could be argued that no one is truly free and the only freedom that can be had comes in the form of degrees of freedom.
- Buttler, Judith. “Frame of War: When is Life Grievable?” New York, New York: Verso. 2009.
- Eastwood, Clint (dir). American Sniper. Warner Brothers Pictures. 2014. Film.
- Machiavelli, Nicolo. The Prince. Project Gutenberg. Last Updated 5 November 2012. Web. 29 November 2015.
- Treder, Mark. “Ethical Technology.” IEET. 17 September 2009. Web. 29 November 2015.