Vasily Zaytsev, Soviet Army
Chris Kyle, U.S. Navy SEAL
Sometimes, important insights come from great events or startling revelations. But sometimes, important insights come from apparently small events – if we have the wisdom to perceive them.
As a child, I learned a good deal from movies. For example, I learned that when violent criminals or tyrants attack us, force is necessary to combat them and to preserve our freedom and our very lives. As an adult, I still learn from movies. I also learn from the reception the movies evoke. How we react to events often reveals more about us than it reveals about the events.
This 2001 film starred Jude Law, Joseph Fiennes, Rachel Weisz, Bob Hoskins, and Ed Harris. It dealt with the epic 1942 Battle of Stalingrad, in which the Red Army turned back the Nazi invaders. Jude Law played Vasily Zaytsev, a shepherd and hunter turned sniper who compiled a total of about 400 kills. Interestingly, Zaytsev had been a chief petty officer in the Soviet Navy – the same rank that Chris Kyle held – but asked to be transferred to the army for front-line duty.
The highlight of the film is the duel between Zaytsev and the top German sniper, Major Erwin König, formerly the director of the Wehrmacht sniping school. The duel ended when Zaytsev shot him.
Zaytsev died at 76, honored in his homeland and by snipers everywhere. According to his wishes, he was buried in Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad). The director of the U.S. Army sniping school laid a wreath on his grave.
This 2014 film directed by Clint Eastwood stars Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American history. Kyle is credited with 160 confirmed kills, but the total is probably higher.
The film deals with the moral questions confronting any warrior, but especially a sniper. For example, Cooper as Kyle has to decide, in seconds, whether to shoot a woman carrying a grenade toward U.S. Marines. Unstated but obvious is the fact that this moral problem for our troops is caused by the moral depravity of our enemies, who use women and children as cannon fodder. But through all of this, the film tells the story in a straightforward manner, leaving us to draw our own conclusions.
The highlight of the film is a duel between Kyle and the top enemy sniper, nicknamed Mustafa, reportedly an Olympic-class shooter. The duel ended when Kyle shot him at the amazing distance of 2100 yards (1920 meters) – about one and one-fifth miles.
On his return home, Kyle contended with PTSD, which he alleviated by visiting a Veterans Hospital and helping patients contend with their own problems. He was killed by one of the veterans he was trying to help – thereby completing the circle of his life of service. He was 38 years of age.
Chris Kyle’s funeral was marked by an outpouring of popular sentiment. Regrettably, there was no national official in attendance. In contrast, three White House officials were sent to attend the funeral of Michael Brown. What this says about the priorities of the administration is too bitter to contemplate. News clips of the lengthy funeral procession provided the last scenes of the film.
Both Zaytsev and Kyle fought bravely for their homelands. Both deserve our respect. But only Zaytsev is respected by the Left, while Kyle is loathed. What does this say about the Left?
“Enemy at the Gates” was well received, getting good but not exceptional reviews. It cost $68,000,000 and grossed $96,276,000. “American Sniper” received good reviews from most critics, but anti-war sentiment overcame others. The public was unreserved in its enthusiasm – the film cost $58,800,000 and thus far has grossed $252,100,000.
Here we have two films about snipers. The climaxes of both films involve successful duels with enemy snipers. Both snipers are shown as human beings with complex emotions, but “American Sniper” deals much more deeply with the moral ambiguities of war. Based on these facts, one would expect similar reactions from the “elite.” One would be wrong.
The clearest way to point out the different receptions for the two films is to list what did happen after the release of “American Sniper,” but which did not happen after the release of “Enemy at the Gates.”
● Howard Dean, former chairman of the Democratic Party and presidential hopeful, did not claim that the audience for “Enemy at the Gates” was composed of very angry Tea Party members, as he did for “American Sniper.” Apparently to Dean, one must be an angry chauvinist and militarist to cheer for an American hero, but merely a history buff to cheer for a Soviet hero.
● Entertainer Bill Maher did not call sniper Zaytsev a “psychopath patriot,” which he called Chris Kyle. Apparently to Maher, one must be a psychopath to kill enemies of America, but merely a patriot to kill enemies of the Soviet Union.
● Author and clergyman Chris Hedges did not claim that “Enemy at the Gates” lionized the gun culture and promoted blind adoration of the military, as he did for “American Sniper.” Apparently to Hedges, it is moral to use guns and the military to defend communist nations, but not to defend free nations.
● Author and anti-Israel activist Max Blumenthal did not opine that “Enemy at the Gates” was “filled with lies and distortion from start to finish,” or that Zaytsev was a “pathological liar and mass killer,” as he did for “American Sniper.” Apparently to Blumenthal, one who fights for the United States is a mass killer, but one who fights for the Soviet Union is a brave soldier.
● Comedian Seth Rogen had no criticism for “Enemy at the Gates,” but he compared “American Sniper” to the phony Nazi propaganda film shown in “Inglorious Basterds.” Apparently to Rogen, a film about an American hero is like Nazi propaganda, but a film about a Russian hero is just a film.
● Noted leftist Professor Noam Chomsky did not point out what the “worship of a movie about a cold-blooded killer says about the American people” when “Enemy at the Gates” was released. But he did exactly that when “American Sniper” was released. Apparently to Chomsky, one who fights for the United States is a cold-blooded killer who should be detested, but one who fights for the Soviet Union is a brave soldier who should be admired.
● Noted motormouth and pro-Castro agitator Michael Moore did not call Zaytsev and snipers like him “cowards who hide on roofs and shoot people in the back,” which he called Chris Kyle and snipers like him. Apparently to Moore, it is not cowardly to shoot people at a distance if one is fighting for a communist nation, but it is cowardly to do so if one is fighting for a free nation.
I could go on, but why restate the painfully obvious? What these critics find so objectionable about “American Sniper” is not the concept of sniper, but the concept of American.
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