Winter is here…

Between the New Year, the State of the Union, the State of the States, Super Bowl Madness…this is also the award season for feature films, television productions, and documentaries. On January 15, 2015, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences announced their nominations for both feature films and documentaries. Within minutes the controversies over who made the cut and who appeared to be snubbed began. Then this past week most of the conversation has turned the lens on Clint Eastwood’s AMERICAN SNIPER.

Movies can be powerful…as are reviews

We often talk about movies. A few months back we talked about Roger Ebert and his contribution to this art form. He was the one who offered that “cinema is a machine that generates empathy.” He would most likely enjoy the conversation that AMERICAN SNIPER has generated to date. Here are just a few reviews, which you may or may not want to read before seeing the movie:

To read a more complete selection of reviews, you can visit the MetaCritic website. As is usually the case, each reviewer brings just a touch of their own life experience to their writing, not unlike the average moviegoer.

You can see the movie without having read the reviews, you can see the movie if you haven’t read Chris Kyle’s bestselling autobiography American Sniper. You’ll find you can see the movie if you have never been in the military, never gone to war, and you can see the movie even if none of your relatives served in the military or have gone to war. On the other hand, watching this movie may be difficult for some who have served and for those whose relatives went to war and didn’t return or came home with either physical or emotional handicaps, or both.


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Is this movie about post traumatic stress disorder?

If you just watched the trailer, then you might jump to the conclusion that the movie is all about post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). But one reviewer offered a different take on what was really going on with Chris Kyle and what he alluded to in his autobiography. Richard Roeper’s review for the Chicago Sun- Times was well thought out and interestingly concluded:

“But this man doesn’t suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. We see signs the disorder is kicking in while he’s still in uniform.”

The movie does hint that Kyle’s PTSD may have started even when he was a young child. It brings to mind the findings of the Army STARRS survey which was published in March 2014. One notable statistic from this report: “More than 8% of soldiers entered the Army with intermittent explosive disorder, characterized by uncontrolled attacks of anger. It was the most common disorder in the study, with a pre-enlistment prevalence nearly six times the civilian rate. The researchers found that despite screening, pre-enlistment rates of depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder and substance abuse were on par with civilian rates.”

Some final thoughts…

It is important to note that even though about 50% of this movie takes place in a war zone, the other half takes place here in the United States. Chris Kyle writes in his book that he felt guilty leaving the Navy. He discusses that he suffered from depression and did not take care of his physical health and abused alcohol. However, Eastwood’s production does provide hope regarding his mental anguish and how Kyle was able to recover and heal. In many ways this is the story of one man’s hope to help his country, be a good husband and father.

Perhaps Tim Long of The Detroit News said it best:

The movie is meant to entertain, to stimulate discussion, to cause discomfort (as it obviously has) and possibly inspire. It does not contain every lunk-headed thing Chris Kyle ever said or did – why would it?

Movies do not tell the truth, even documentaries. Movies tell stories. “American Sniper” is one angle on the story of Chris Kyle, and that angle is nowhere near as simplistic as its critics are making it sound.

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