Viewers of films usually expect certain aspects to be included in the film for instance love, war. The expectations of the viewers and their attitude at the end of the film usually define the genre to which the film will fall. In most cases, the purpose of the films and the attitudes developed by the audience as the plot of the film grows will help shape the genre to which the film will be categorized. Even though these expectations exist, it would be illogical for the film to follow an individual ideal like communicativeness ad knowledge that defines the genre. The shifts in these genres between combat and romance, for instance, are used to facilitate the conceptualization of the purpose and the representations used in the film. Ultimately, they will be used to highlight the subjects of knowledge and power (Basinger, 2003, p.50).
The film American Sniper is a tribute to U.S Navy Seal Chief Chris Kyle, who in his time as a Sniper had confirmed over 150 kills becoming the greatest Sniper in U.S history. The storyline behind the film is that of Chris Kyle, who is sent to Iraq to protect fellow soldiers on the battlefield. Chris Kyle soon grows to be a legend with his pinpoint accuracy which he uses to save countless lives of his fellow soldiers on the battlefield. The story of his accuracy soon spreads to the enemies who make him a target of insurgents who want to kill him. Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq on four tours, and soon he finds that he cannot be able to adapt to his home environment because he has become too used to the battlefield. Chris Kyle has to make several tours to the war-torn Iraq from the United States, which makes it difficult for him to adjust to his family and social life. Furthermore, his family is young, and he is not able to stay with the children much.
Even though the film has certain aspects that do not present it as entirely a combat film, the representational meanings and the attitudes presented in the film enables it to be categorized as a combat film. The reason why the film American Sniper is considered as a combat film is because most of the activities in the film relate to the war that is going on in Iraq. Additionally, the purpose of the film is to portray the challenges that soldiers go through during the war. The representations in the film do not leave the viewer with second thoughts as to whether the film should be categorized as a combat film. The fact that he is not able to isolate his life from being a soldier further supports the decision to categorize this film as a combat film.
The film has one star Chris Kyle, who the storyline of the film revolves around, he can take his role quite well in the military and can save the lives of countless of his comrades in the battlefield. The success in the battlefield contradicts the performance he has at home with regards to his social life. Chris Kyle and his team are sent to Iraq soon after he has married, and as such he is faced with many difficulties in the battlefield because he is torn between his new marriage and the duty he has towards his country and fellow soldiers. However, even when he is at home, his thoughts are focused towards helping his fellow soldiers in the battlefield. This shows that Chris Kyle has been able to dehumanize the enemy so that he can kill them without feeling guilty but rather considering this as positive because he can save the lives of his comrades. The imagination that soldiers have has to be altered with so that they do not perceive the 'enemy' as the same species with them. On the contrary, the use of propaganda and similar tactics is employed so that the thoughts of the individuals going to war are paralyzed and are compelled to act as a group and not individually (Keen, 1986, p.25).
Just like in any war, soldiers in become so much overwhelmed with fear, in some cases to the point of madness. But it is not exclusively the fear that drives the soldiers to madness, in certain instances it is the dismembered bodies of fellow soldiers that cause them to feel this way. The prolonged duration before, they receive backup prolongs the feeling of shock which drives the soldier to madness. The film depicts Chris Kyle as being disturbed as a result of the horrors of the battle; he becomes too sensitive to saving American lives that he does not want to exit the war. When asked by a doctor whether he regrets killing the soldiers he killed he has no remorse but feels like he should have done more to protect the lives of American soldiers. He also becomes scared when the door is shut and in similar cases which indicate that the horrors of the war have made him too sensitive. Moreover, he is not able to do anything constructive with his life because of the effect that the war has on him. When at home he fails to have time with his family because he is too distracted for instance when he was staring at a television which was switched off. He is keener to help fellow veterans and helps them learn Sniper skills in the shooting range instead of using this time with family. According to Fussell, 1989, p.43, a recount of the experiences that the soldiers go through in war depicts an image of suffering and pain for wounded soldiers; death is encountered more frequently and in inhumane ways. This ultimately gets into the minds of the soldiers, and there is an increased likelihood that they will not acclimatize to the external environment at the end of the war.
Chris Kyle's wife is frustrated by the little effort that she believes Kyle is putting to his social life. In the time that she delivers their second child, the nurse takes time to respond to the cries of the baby which make Kyle extremely agitated. He shouts at the nurse, and it is his wife who comes to the rescue of the nurse. His wife is frustrated because she believes the responsibility of raising the children is left to her alone. His wife is also frustrated by the fact that Kyle is not able to open up to her, regarding the issues that he is going through. The fact that despite the phone calls he makes to his wife at home he doesn't disclose the events of the war indicates that he was undergoing some psychological distress. His pregnant wife pleads with him on several occasions to open up to her, but he is unable. Even after coming from the war he is not able to disclose to his wife what he was going through. According to Neale, the masculine form is centered on four critical moments defeat, combat, victory, and comradeship. The four moments are adequately presented in the film, the feeling of defeat is displayed when Chris Kyle is communicating with his wife at home, and they are overwhelmed with enemy fire. Defeat is indicated because at the moment when the fire is too much he tells his wife that he is ready to go home. Comradeship is displayed in the way that Kyle has become appreciated by his fellow soldiers for the contribution that he has made towards saving the lives of fellow soldiers in the battlefield. The feeling overwhelms Kyle and even when at home he is more focused on improving the shooting skills of fellow veterans. Arguably, the representation of war films and combat scenes is not all about masculinity; they may also be used to portray ethnicity, warfare, and technology among others. However, masculinity is a critical aspect in war films and combat extracts, just in the same way war films can be used to indicate the different aspects of masculinity.
Basinger, J., & Arnold, J. (2003). The World War II combat film: Anatomy of a genre. Middletown, Conn: Wesleyan Univ. Press.
Fussell, P. (1989). The Real War 1939-1945. The Atlantic Monthly 264 (2) 48
Keen, S. (1986) Faces of the Enemy: Reflection of the Hostile Imagination. New York: Harper & Row, Publishers.
Neale, S. (1991). Aspects of Ideology and Narrative Form in the American War Film, Screen 32, (1) 35-57.
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