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AMERICAN MOSAIC - With Oscar Nomination, 'American Sniper' Stirs Debate

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Bradley Cooper in 'American Sniper.'
Bradley Cooper in 'American Sniper.'

The Oscar-nominated film "American Sniper" is based on the true story of American Chris Kyle. He formerly served as a member of the U.S. Navy's Sea, Air and Land teams, also known as SEALs.

Chris Kyle served four times in Iraq as a sniper. He saved the lives of countless American soldiers and became famous, and infamous, for his expert marksmanship – his skill in shooting a gun at a target.

The film "American Sniper" explores the effects of war on the human spirit.

DOCTOR: "Would you be surprised if I told you that Navy has credited you with over 160 kills?"

CHRIS KYLE (played by Bradley Cooper): "Hmm…"

DOCTOR: "Do you ever think that you might have seen things or done some things over there that you wish you hadn't?"

CHRIS KYLE: "Oh, that's not me. No."

Sniper Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, is unapologetic about killing the enemy.

CHRIS KYLE: "The thing that haunts me are all the guys that I couldn't save."

"American Sniper" is not about American bravery in war. It is a story about the emotional damage war can cause even on the most efficient and effective of soldiers.

Chris Kyle is a husband and father. The more time he spends in battle, the less able he is to communicate to his wife and friends what he experiences there.

That vicious circle draws him back to the battlefield.

Ryan Galucci is deputy director of the group Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States. He says the movie is about one of the most common emotional traumas that soldiers experience.

"You just came back from a very profound experience, it is difficult to contextualize for the average civilian. That's why I think films like this are important in trying to contextualize that experience and some of the emotions that come with going to war and then coming home."

Actor Bradley Cooper stars as Chris Kyle, who slowly loses himself emotionally and mentally and quietly struggles to rebuild his life. His performance earned him an Oscar nomination for Best Actor. He says the movie is neutral on the subject of war.

"This movie is not a pro-war or an anti-war movie or even a war film for that matter. It's a movie about one character's struggle to juggle a family life and a work life and the work life happens to be one which demands giving one's life for one's country."

Not everyone agrees with that opinion, however. Recent discussions between celebrities on Twitter became a little heated over the message of "American Sniper." American filmmaker Michael Moore tweeted that he had been raised to believe snipers were cowards. His uncle had been killed by a Japanese sniper during World War Two.

Country singers Blake Shelton and Charlie Daniels took issue with Moore's comments. Shelton tweeted: "Sickens me to see celebrities or anybody slam the very people who protect their right to talk..."

Chris Kyle was murdered in February 2013. His attacker was another war veteran who suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. Taya Kyle, his wife, says the film helped her.

"I had a little bit of peace before I went into the movie, but coming out I didn't realize what a weight I maybe was still carrying. And it was lifted because they nailed it. They really got Chris, just who he is with all the good, the bad, everything. It's just sort of out there for the world to see and I think that's what make it beautiful."

"American Sniper" has also received an Oscar nomination for Best Picture for its depiction of the contrast of humanity at war and humanity at peacetime.

I'm Jonathan Evans.

Caty Weaver wrote this story for Learning English based on a piece by VOA reporter Penelope Poulou. George Grow was the editor.

Have you seen "American Sniper?" Are movies about war and soldiers popular where you live? Let us know. Post your comment on our website.

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Words in This Story

infamous – adj. well-known for being bad : known for evil acts or crimes

marksmanship – n. skill in shooting guns

trauma n. – a very difficult or unpleasant experience that causes someone to have mental or emotional problems usually for a long time

juggle – v. to do (several things) at the same time

depiction n. to describe (someone or something) using words, a story, etc.

contrast n. to compare (two people or things) to show how they are different

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