Movie Review: American Sniper (Four Stars)

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Movie Review: American Sniper

Four Stars out of Five

Didn’t see this in theaters because I’d heard so much politicized comment. Also, as a veteran of a couple wars, I really don’t enjoy war movies. (Folks who’ve never been shot at or had a SCUD dropped on them won’t understand.)

Turns out, Clint Eastwood (producer and director) does a good job capturing the monomania of the lead character and the destruction he wrought both in combat and at home. War costs those left behind almost as much as those who go; something those who go seldom understand. (We understand that those at home don’t understand what those in combat experience.) This point is emphasized in a scene when Chris (midday in Iraq) is talking by cell phone to his wife Taya (midday in Texas). His convoy is jumped, and he drops his phone to do his duty. Taya is left listening to the explosions, shouts and shooting.

Technical quibbles: Everything in Iraq is too clean. The soldiers always wear clean, pressed uniforms. They bleed, but they never sweat. Even though vehicles have painted symbology (skulls, etc.), they are never dirty. As mentioned before, Eastwood apparently forgot that Iraq is on the opposite side of the world from Texas. (I can’t imagine calling home on a cell phone during a combat operation. Even as late as the Gulf War, contact was the occasional arranged phone call or snail mail.)

Eastwood does remind us of the plight of the Iraqis caught in the middle. Since we cut and ran, those Iraqis who helped us most, the embedded interpreters, are been left to the vengeance of their radicalized neighbors. America won’t even give them asylum.

People like Winston Churchill and George Washington, who are thrilled to have bullets flying around them, are demonstratively crazy. War is hell. That humans practice it upon other humans is proof of our fallen nature. That some people are so protective of nation and friends, that they put themselves in harm’s way to protect them, is humbling.

Yes, somethings are worth fighting to defend, but we shouldn’t go looking for fights. That’s being a bully; something Chris’ father taught him not to be.

Book Review: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers (Five Stars)

Book Review: The Yellow Birds by Kevin Powers

Five Stars out of Five.

What was it like over there?

“Now I know: all pain is the same. It’s the details that are different.”
“My missing him became a grave that could not be filled or leveled, just a faded blemish in a field and a damn poor substitute for grief, as graves so often are.”

As C. S. Lewis famously did not say, “we read to know we are not alone.’ We can’t—and don’t want to—experience all there is to experience, but we do want to know what some of those emotions are. They edify, even if they hurt. All pain is related, if not the same.

Kevin Powers’ first novel brings the vast scope of war into the breadth of a single person. He’s no hero, but he tries to do what’s right… and fails. No man should be made responsible for another’s life. We have enough trouble being responsible for ourselves.

Amazing freshman effort. Not perfect by any means, but Powers gets extra credit for this being his first novel.

“If there is anything true in this world it is that war is only like itself. People, however are all the same: grief and fear, shame and anger are as alike in each of us as our breath and blood, in spite of the differences of scope or scale or the useless divisions of their common and uncommon causes.”