American Sniper was our choice, not without some serious contemplation and conversation. I knew it would be intense. My husband had some concerns about the level of violence, and whether or not it would be appropriate for the 15-year old.
In the end, I trusted my gut and we bought our tickets.
It was a horrific movie, in that it showed the horrific truth of war. Not the nuanced political stances that we see on the news and in print media. Not the 'battles' fought in Call of Duty. This film offered perspective on the act of taking lives in conflict, one that included a raw, vulnerable humanity - on both sides.
One particular scene resonates; a child of about four or five years stands 10 feet from an Iraqi insurgent about to fire on American troops. Chris Kyle shoots the soldier, and the child - unaware or inured to the death and violence right beside him - wanders over to the soldier, slumped on the sidewalk. The boy struggles to pick up the rocket launcher; he acts as if he will take over the fallen Iraqi's duty and fire on the Americans.
The suspense is agonizing - in the theater, and in the heart of the American sniper, as he whispers, "Don't you do it don't you do it don't you do it..."
In that moment, all the horror of war sunk down, hard, in the pit of my heart. The dissonance between evil and innocence, power and vulnerability. The desperate nature of the dichotomy within us all.
I will not enter into the discussion of whether or not Chris Kyle should be called a hero. He was a solider, and he died too soon, and none of us will ever know his heart. In our media-saturated culture, there's little that can't be co-opted by one side or another to advance a political cause. I refuse to play that game. American Sniper - the movie - is not about politics; it's about the terrible, awful truth of war and the real power of our humanity. It is a brilliant, beautiful, raw, well-crafted story.
It's a sad movie. I wept, several times.
I've seen several comments about the fact that at the end, the theater was silent. "You could have heard a pin drop," was on several Facebook statuses. I anticipated that moment and was a little surprised at how true it was - and why.
There is no closing music. The credits run in silence.
Silence is powerful. Rather than crowd our ears with some distraction, we are forced to either be present in the moment - listening to the older couple as they struggle to worm their arms into their coats, as she says to him, "Yes, honey, it was true. It happened in 2013;" or sit with the power of what we just witnessed.
A story of the ravages of war, of the terrible, desperate things we do to one another.
In the silence, it becomes very difficult to articulate the reasons why.