I hope ‘American Sniper’ has a good story: I like sniper movies

"American Sniper" has been getting quite a bit of buzz these days. (photo credit - fair use)

“American Sniper” has been getting quite a bit of buzz these days. (photo credit – fair use)

There’s been quite a bit of social media and entertainment news traffic about the movie directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper, as Chris Kyle in American Sniper.

Last night at the Silver Sage Village pot luck dinner, there was a pretty good discussion about the military experience of five men in the community , which is no experience. None of us saw any duty during the Vietnam War era, mostly because of student deferments.

I’ve always thought that service in the military was a part of my maturation process that I missed, considering that four of my uncles were in the army 1-A. My dad was 4-F.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to watch American Sniper.

After some thinking, I realized that I like sniper movies. There are sniper characters in lots of movies which date back to when I was a kid. I was a bit of a loner back then – still am – which probably explains my attraction to them.

My earliest recollection of snipers is from a 1960s TV show called "Combat". (photo credit - fair use)

My earliest recollection of snipers is from a 1960s TV show called “Combat”. (photo credit – fair use)

There was a TV show called Combat with Vic Morrow as Sgt. Saunders and Rick Jason as Lt. Hanley. I remember one episode called “The Sniper”. The squad takes refuge in a French town after it was liberated and gets pinned down by a Nazi sniper. They can’t find him and Sgt. Saunders eventually figures out he’s been hiding in plain clothes in town.

Turns out the bad guy was abetted by Sgt. Saunders’ love interest. He eventually mows the sniper down with his Thompson sub-machine gun, after the girl gets sniped. She has a recognition and reversal and realizes she should have remained loyal to her homeland and dies in Sgt. Saunders’ arms. Combat always had good stories with war as a back drop.

From when I was young, I’ve always liked James Bond, some war movies – many have snipers as characters.

In no particular order, here are some sniper movies that came to mind. I’ve watched these many times. All of the video clips linked are graphic, so open them at your own risk.

I like movies where there are old guys teaching young guys, like in "spy Game" (photo credit - fair use)

I like movies where there are old guys teaching young guys, like in “Spy Game” (photo credit – fair use)

Spy Game – This is one of those two generational movies. Robert Redford plays a veteran CIA agent – Jason Muir – who recruits upstart sniper Brad Pitt – Tom Bishop – during the Vietnam War. He passes on all his spy wisdom to Pitt who is a bit of a renegade and ends up  imprisoned in China after a botched attempt to rescue his girlfriend who was aiding the bad guys in the Middle East in exchange for money to keep her NGO going. Robert Redford is retiring and the double entendre story has Redford giving his exit interview with his bosses while using CIA resources to spring Pitt and the girlfriend from prison. Bishop and Muir were both better loners than team players.

Jean Reno reluctantly teaches young Natalie Portman the assassin trade in "The Professional" (photo credit - fair use)

Jean Reno reluctantly teaches young Natalie Portman the assassin trade in “The Professional” (photo credit – fair use)

The Professional – This is an odd movie with Jean Reno as Leon, the assassin, and a 12 year old orphan named Matilda played by Natalie Portman. In one scene, Leon gives Matilda a sniper lesson teaching her how to follow a target with a high powered rifle. I think this scene is only in the director’s cut. I don’t remember it when it was on TV the other night.

Matilda wants to learn the ways of an assassin to avenge the death of her brother. Gary Oldman plays a rogue cop addicted to meth trying to foil Leon and Matilda.

It’s a different kind of love story and when the two aren’t blowing stuff up, the two get to know each other like father and daughter as well as partners in crime.

Classic 1972 yarn about a plot to kill de Gaulle. (photo credit - fair use)

Classic 1972 yarn about a plot to kill de Gaulle. (photo credit – fair use)

The Day of the Jackal – The original has Edward Fox playing an assassin who is hired to kill French President Charles de Gaulle in the 1960s. The Jackal ends up getting a clean shot at de Gaulle, but misses. He’s noticed by the French police who kill him.

Fox also became a staple in couple of my favorite war movies A Bridge Too Far which was written by my favorite screen screenwriter William Goldman and in Force 10 from Navarone, the sequel to The Guns of Navarone.

There was a remake called The Jackal with Bruce Willis as the bad guy who is being chased by Richard Gere. The new version doesn’t have much similar to the original. Both versions are on cable TV. I catch parts of them when channel surfing.

Andrew Robinson plays a creepy bad guy called Scorpio in "Dirty Harry" (photo credit - fair use)

Andrew Robinson plays a creepy bad guy called Scorpio in “Dirty Harry” (photo credit – fair use)

Dirty Harry – This was the first installment of Clint Eastwood’s portrayal of San Francisco detective of questionable ethics Harry Callahan. It came out the year I graduated from high school in 1971. The psycho bad guy is a sniper called Scorpio played by Andrew Robinson. He was type cast after his Scorpio role. Towards the beginning of the movie, a San Francisco police helicopter catches up to him on a rooftop aiming on some unsuspecting targets. He leaves notes at each crime scene demanding $100,000 from the city government or he’ll keep killing random citizens ($100,000? why bother!?) He and Callahan have a final shoot out in a rock quarry when the infamous line “Do I feel lucky” is uttered. Scorpio was a Vietnam vet who came home and was a victim of PTSD and mistreatment when he came back stateside causing him to go berserk. This veteran stereotype probably wouldn’t go over very well today.

Eastwood also directed American Sniper. I wonder if he had any throwbacks to his original Dirty Harry role and Scorpio.

Back when I was a kid, playing war was a part of goofing around in my suburban neighborhood in Cheyenne, Wyoming. I still don’t think that there was anything odd about my pals and me dressing up like WWII soldiers and digging fox holes in the vacant fields behind the subdivision. It was a big treat to browse around the Sergeant’s Surplus store for old canvas backpacks, dummy grenades and such.

I didn’t turn out to be that demented.

This socialization process was the norm back in those days. I owned lots of toy guns, including a Sgt. Saunders Tommy gun by Mattel and a Marx bazooka that shot these blue plastic rockets.

When we played, nobody wanted to be the sniper because that entailed being alone and we all would rather storm pretend machine gun nests.

This is why I think there has always been a fascination with the lone wolf sniper persona.

There are plenty of other movies from Rambo to the Hurt Locker that include snipers in them. I’ve heard that American Sniper is very graphic. My guess is that any gore is left up to the imagination. I can’t see director Eastwood going over the top with any of that.

American Sniper will be on demand soon, I’ll likely live the life of Chris Kyle vicariously on the small screen.

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