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Plot Details: This Review Reveals Minor Details About the Plot.

God, Country, and Family

American Sniper

Plot Overview

After a penetrating male voice calls out to prayer, “Allahu akbar,” we see a military occupation of Fallujah, Iraq. US Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), along with his Marine spotter, are seques­tered in a dilapi­dated roof­scape conducting over­watch while the Marines below clear buildings door to door. It's the SEAL's job to neutralize any threats. What about a military age male observing troops and talking on his cell phone? How about a woman walking her child out into the street while she's cradling some­thing concealed in the folds of her shawl? Better call it in before he takes a shot, but Command leaves it up to him, though being newly arrived in-country.

A rifle shot (“You got him!”) transports us back to Chris's Texas childhood hunting deer (“Heluva shot, son!”) with his dad who congratu­lates him (“You gotta gift.”) Some play­ground action followed by a church sermon and some dinner table instruction give us Chris's mind-set to become a “sheep­dog” (“We protect our own.”) After he's grown up, a TV broad­cast of a terrorist attack on American soil persuades Chris to give up his fast cow­boy life to enlist in the Navy. During his rigorous Navy SEAL training, he meets in a bar one night Taya (Sienna Miller) who against her better judgment marries the tall Texan (“I now present to you Mr. & Mrs. Chris Kyle”.) Then his orders come to ship out.

Picking up the story again in Iraq, some shots he takes and some he doesn't take, until his score over four tours makes him “The Legend” among his men and a target for his enemy. Regret­tably, Taya could no more stomach the "Navy-widow" life than she was able to handle all that whiskey she drank the night they met, and re-integrating back into civilian life presents its own set of challenges after Chris's tours are over.


The old worn New Testament Chris acquired while a youth is carried with him throughout his tours (“That Bible of yours, that bullet­proof?”). In the movie it's juxta­posed with two other pieces of literature: a Quran a mother complained a youth was carrying when Chris shot him and a “comic book” a soldier remarked upon that Chris was reading. The problem with the Quran was the loaded AK-47 the guy was also carrying. You know, some Muslims claim it's impossible to translate the Quran into another language. Devout Muslims will break down into tears at the very poetry of its Arabic. But some­how it gets trans­lated into bullets. Our Christian Bible was trans­lated okay into words, words elegant enough to move the hearts of English speakers, at least in the King James Version (KJV). As for the “comic book” Chris was reading, he replied that it wasn't a comic book but a graphic novel (“There's a big difference.”) The KJV similarly has attributed to it more dignity than upstart trans­lations. The age and dignity of the cover of the one Chris carries are the only prima facie clues to its version, needed to suss out what he's practicing from it.

George P. Marsh said in his graduate lecture on the English Bible: (452)

Early English specially appropriate to the translation of the Bible.
§ 10. The vocabulary of the whole Bible is narrow in extent, and extremely simple in character. Now, in the early part of the sixteenth century, when the development of our religious [KJV] dialect was completed, the English mind, and the English language, were generally in a state of culture much more analogous to that of the people and the tongues of Palestine than they have been at any other subsequent period. Two centuries later … The language in fact had become too copious, and too specific, to have any true corres­pon­dences with so simple and inartificial a diction as that of the Christian Scriptures. Had the Bible then for the first time appeared in an English dress, the translators would have been perplexed and confounded with the multitude of terms, each expressing a fragment, few the whole, of the meaning of the original words for which they must stand.

According to Porter G. Perrin, Index to English: 3b. Synonyms. A synonym is a word of nearly the same meaning as another. … There are very few pairs of inter­change­able words. (192)

In “American Sniper” Chris as a boy is seen in church where the preacher (Troy Vincent) is saying that “Here in the book of Acts, Paul stands in judgment for the things he's done.” We don't hear the rest of the sermon, but Chris picks up a New Testament, and by looking at how he goes on to live his life, we may surmise the lesson he learned from Paul, who was habitually judged: (1Cor. 4:13) “Being defamed, we entreat.” Modern trans­lations (NIV, NASV. ESV), how­ever, substitute the word slander for defame (of the KJV), which doesn't play out the same way. Let's look at the reputable Fowler: (323–4) libel & some synonyms.

False & malicious representation of the words or actions of others, calculated to injure their reputation.
The action of defaming or attacking any one's good fame.
(Pop.) any false & defamatory state­ment in conver­sation or other­wise.
(Pop.) the utterance of disgraceful imputations (The word differs from the etymologic­ally identical slander in not implying the falsity of the imputations made).
The utterance or dissemination of false statements or reports concerning a person, or malicious misrepre­sentation of his actions, in order to defame or injure him (‘False­hood & malice, express or implied, are of the essence of the action for slander’).

In “American Sniper” we first see Chris's brother Jeff (Keir O'Donnell) say some­thing scandalous about Chris's cheating girl­friend (Marnette Patterson). It's scandal rather than slander, because it's true, and her entreaties did not work (“Get your stuff and get out,” he tells her.)

The Navy recruiter defames Chris a non-swimmer by telling him the SEALs aren't for every­one, and Chris entreats him with, “I'm not everyone.”

During SEAL training, the instructors say all kinds of defamatory things (“You a queer, boy?”) to impugn the recruits' man­hood as they try to make the grade. It's not slander because they are kind of soft. Chris entreats the drill sergeant. When asked how he feels he replies, “Dangerous” (“Kyle's feeling dangerous,” the sarge tells the other recruits.)

At the bar when Chris meets Taya, she defames him by calling him a redneck, and he entreats her by replying he's a Texan. He was in fact showing his preference for country music, and he had been doing the rodeo circuit, and he did have a southern drawl, so it was an honest mistake that Chris corrected.

Taya went further to slander him by saying she wouldn't become involved with a SEAL, because her sister married one who lied and cheated. Chris walked away at that before Taya changed her tune. Chris wasn't putting up with being lumped together that way.

Once in-country the boys were exposed to the calumny of enemy propaganda. It was just the back­ground that had to be tolerated.

Chris defamed a woman he had to shoot by calling her a “fuckin' evil bitch.” It wasn't slander because she was the evil she-wolf Chris's father warned him about that preys on the sheep, and Chris was just giving his spotter an accurate assessment; he would have spared her if he could.

Chris had to entreat his wife concerning his call to duty when she complained, rightly it seems, that he was neglecting his family in the process (“Even when you're here, you're not here.”)

When Chris's buddy Biggles reveals he's bought an engagement ring locally to save money, the men tease him about it being a blood diamond. Since they have no know­ledge that it is, they are guilty of libel. He replies he'll tell his girlfriend it's from Zales.

Chris got a reputation for being “The Legend” (“Your dad, he's a hero.”) The movie seems to be about reputation, and that a soldier today will have to entreat when people, perhaps innocently, defame him. It seems to follow from the sermon that we see but a piece of, so we have to check in our own Bibles to see it, in the one that matches the dignity of the Good Book Chris took to him­self as a lad.

Production Values

“American Sniper” (2015) was directed by Clint Eastwood. Its screenplay was written by Jason Hall, as adapted from Kyle's auto­biography (co-written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice): American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. It stars Bradley Cooper who bulked up with muscle for the part and did a credible job, although some­times he and other soldiers seemed wooden in their delivery.

MPAA rated it R for strong and disturbing war violence, and language throughout including some sexual references. Cinematography by Tom Stern and Editing by Joel Cox & Gary D. Roach pass muster. War sequences are strongly executed. It's done with a minimalist style, but the action sequences play fully out.

Review Conclusion w/ Christian Recommendation

There is an element of faith that carries the sniper through to the end while some issues regarding war are left on the side. Chris's escapade(s) of premarital sex, if treated at all, is done in a Freudian manner when his dad tells Chris's younger self (Cole Konis) not to set his rifle in the dirt (i.e. not to defile his tool.) The lady drinking at the bar led to vomiting. The ugliness of (this) war is intimated by a single remark by Chris's brother Jeff. The need for diplomacy is demonstrated by the shrink, and that Chris is not cut out for the role of diplomat is demonstrated by an incident with a playful dog at a back­yard barbecue. That a military marriage can be tough on a wife is plainly shown, but what marriage doesn't have its problems? While putting these other issues in view on the side, the movie focuses on the perspective of a warrior, how he can do his duty to God, country, and family, helping as many of his fellows as he can to return home safely. This the movie does quite well, and as long as you are not looking for it to delver more than it was designed for, I highly recommend it.

Movie Ratings

Action factor: Edge of your seat action-packed. Suitability For Children: Not Suitable for Children of Any Age. Special effects: Average special effects. Video Occasion: Good Date Movie. Suspense: Keeps you on the edge of your seat. Overall product rating: Four and a half stars out of five.

Works Cited

Scripture quoted from the King James Version. Pub. 1611, rev. 1769, 2011. Software, print.

Fowler, H.W., A Dictionary of Modern English Usage. USA. Oxford UP. 1946. Print.

Marsh, George P. "Appropriateness of Bible Dialect."
       Lectures on the English Language. London: John Murray, 1863. Print.
       ——available to read or download at www.bibles.n7nz.org.

Perrin, Porter G. Writer's Guide and Index to English. Chicago: Scott, Foresman & Co., 1939. Print.