American Sniper movie does well at the box office but overlooks Chris Kyle's faith

The blockbuster movie American Sniper, which garnered a record breaking $90.2 million in revenue after its opening weekend, has come under some criticism for not emphasising Chris Kyle's faith in God.

Clint Eastwood's soldier drama themed movie was released January 16, and was  marketed and distributed by Warner Bros.

The movie looks at the life of Chris Kyle, dubbed the most lethal American sniper in US Military History. The film is based on Kyle's autobiography released back in 2012 entitled "American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History," which became a New York Times bestseller for 37 weeks.

Chris Kyle, a US Navy seal sniper, reportedly garnered the title "The Legend" for his 160 kills during his four missions to Iraq. He courageously protected his team with his talent of targeting the enemy with deadly precision and reportedly saved many lives.

He returned to his home country but encountered some struggles in adjusting to normal life, and later found purpose in helping fellow veterans with their own struggles.

Kyle was tragically killed by a fellow veteran he was trying to help.

According to Kyle's autobiography, his priorities were in this order: God, country and family. But Religion News Service's Sarah Pulliam Bailey criticises the film for failing to put much emphasis on this crucial aspect of Kyle and drew comparisons between Eastwood's film to Jolie's 'Unbroken.'

She writes, "But God doesn't make a central appearance in the film 'American Sniper,' which opens nationwide on Friday (Jan. 16). The film offers a few similarities to 'Unbroken,' Angelina Jolie's recent World War II epic about POW Louis Zamperini."

As Bailey observes, 'Unbroken' and 'American Sniper' both focus on the dramatic stories of soldiers who died before the movie versions of their lives were released. Both films include an early scene of their families sitting in church. Both men struggle with substance abuse after returning from war.  Both films debuted a limited release on Christmas Day.

"And both films largely skirt the faith that Kyle and Zamperini said were key to their identity — and their survival," Bailey adds.

Jolie's movie 'Unbroken' showed the life of Louis Zamperini, an Olympian-turned-World War II soldier, who suffered abuse from his Japanese captors. Upon returning home, he struggled with living a normal life in the US but managed to find healing and forgiveness through his new found faith in Christ.

Zamperini's faith was low key in the film, which some critics said was a mistake on the part of Jolie since his conversion was a big part of the bestselling book by Laura Hillenbrand's book "Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience and Redemption".

Jolie reportedly had Zamperini's consent in keeping the faith element subtle in the film to appeal to a more neutral crowd.

"We made it universal, not specific to one faith, and that was something that was agreed upon with Louie," Jolie said, according to The Christian Post.

"He said he wanted the message to reach everyone ... he said this is about reaching everyone and this should speak to everyone."

Eastwood hasn't commented on the faith aspect of American Sniper but Bailey observed that Kyle's priority of God, country and family was mentioned only in passing in the film after Kyle is asked by a fellow soldier if he believes in God.

Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper responded, "There's evil. We have seen it."  

This is in contrast to the extent Kyle was open about his faith in his autobiography.

"I was raised with, and still believe in, the Christian faith. If I had to order my priorities, they would be God, Country, Family," Kyle wrote. "There might be some debate on where those last two fall — these days I've come around to believe that Family may, under some circumstances, outrank Country. But it's a close race."

Faith aside, the film has been a hit at the box office as well as with critics, scooping an impressive six Oscar nominations, including Best Picture.  Movie lovers will find out on February 22 whether it will pick up awards in any of the categories it is nominated in.