No, no, I don't mean the rifle, I mean the film! In fact, I left early, the first time I have walked out of a film for decades. It was eye-stabbingly tedious throughout, and that included the action scenes, and in places it produced snorts of derision from me. (Well, I mean, chatting to the wife on the 'phone whilst on duty as a covert sniper on a rooftop in the middle of a hostile town?) I blame 'Clint-baby'! But where to start ... ?
Films and plays are an art form. In other words, a writer/director stretches reality, sometimes to the level of unreality, in order not just to show a literal 'truth' but to uncover a greater hidden 'truth'. From what I saw, 'Clint-baby' failed even to attempt such artifice. Well, he's been around films long enough and so I can only assume that the decision was deliberate. It's interesting, and perhaps indicative, that he has made his acting reputation playing silent, moody he-men of the 'a man has to do what a man has to do' type. They worked extremely well but, of course, these films being fiction were laced with artifice which made their potentially boring heroes more interesting. I regret to say that 'Sniper' Kyle in this film could have saved his ammo and simply bored his enemies to death!
As portrayed, and confirmed by people who knew him, Chris Kyle was a man of very few words. Such words as he did utter were only a level or two above the sort of grunts and clicks you would expect to hear from a Kalahari bushman. Now it is possible that the late Mr.Kyle had some interesting thoughts but was simply unable to express them and the script-writers remained true to the man's memory. However, fairly soon into the film, I began to suspect that he had nothing much to say because he didn't actually think much about anything. In fact, I rapidly came to the conclusion that he was as thick as a plank! At this point, another suspicion wormed its way into my head which indicated that perhaps 'Clint-baby' was far more perceptive and subversive than I had given him credit for. I will explain that later.
At this point I must risk upsetting my American friends by owning up to the fact that much as I admire and like most aspects of 'Americana' there are certain types of behaviour that graunch against my old-fashioned (antediluvian?) Englishness. All that 'rar-ra-ra', macho, muscle-pumping patriotism as demonstrated by the American military in this film turned me right off. Shut up and THINK!, was what I kept muttering under my breath. But no-one in this film was thinking, they were all just 'doing what a man has to do' and all that crap! There was one exception (in the first half that I saw) and that was slipped in and could easily have been missed. By accident, Kyle bumps into his young brother who has served a tour and is on his way out. He obviously has been thinking and has come to the correct conclusion that the whole shit-circus is a waste of blood and treasure, although, true to the Kyle family's inability to match words with thoughts, he can't express it very clearly.
This brings me back to 'Clint-baby's sly subversiveness, if that is what it was. The action scenes in and around some wreck of a town in Iraq looked very realistic. There was an enormous amount of death and destruction going on and even after twenty minutes I was thinking to myself what a complete waste of time and effort and blood this all is because it obvious that nothing - zero, zilch, nada - is being achieved. That was exactly the same feeling that crept up on me some years back when Ross Kemp went in with a TV film crew to record 3 Para defending some crappy, horrible village in Helmand. Yes, they fought bravely - as did the Taleban - but at the end of it all nothing was achieved.
So my question is, was 'Clint-baby' being deliberately subversive? Was the message of this film that thick, muscle-bound but unbelievably courageous men like Chris Kyle were too precious to be thrown away on the scrap heap of a useless war by politicians and generals not fit to clean their boots? I don't know the answer to that because I didn't see the whole film. Perhaps someone else who did will put me right.