Saturday Matinee: Sniper, the Unseen Warrior

Like Outside the Wire, today’s review subject is a documentary series available on DVD. In fact, we bought it at Wal-Mart in a 2-pack with J.D. Johannes’s Iraq documentary series, and we actually liked it better.

Don’t expect the flash of a Hollywood feature film (or even an independent film like Act of Valor or Saints and Soldiers). It is what it is, a series of documentaries that build into a wholesale history of the combat precision marksman — the sniper.

The first episode, Who is the Sniper?, discusses the personality, training, and equipment of a “generic” sniper. The second discusses employment and common mission profiles for dedicated snipers. The next four episodes provide a history of the sniper, from the American Revolution to today. (It is interesting that throughout these 235 or so years there has always been a place for a piece on the chessboard who fired at a slower rate but with a higher certainty of effect than his fellows in the rank and file).

The story is told by talking head, by field footage, and — from time to time — by reenactments. Some of the reenactments tend towards the cheesy. There are some errors that the tech-savvy viewer will get. (Advice to DVD packagers: do not juxtapose a tagline about the spirit of the American sniper” with the photo of a sniper team that is visibly not American, like these guys did on the back of the DVD. You will be made sport of. QED). There are current snipers (the USMC clearly cooperated with the filmmakers) and retired snipers.

We would have liked more on the gear and especially the technique of the various periods. We would have liked to see more on emerging and future technologies (sniping stands on the verge of a capabilities explosion today, in 2012).

If you are a sniper, or even if you are a veteran who has faced them, served with them, or deployed/employed them, you will probably not learn a great deal from this. We didn’t. But we enjoyed it nonetheless, we did learn things about Civil War snipers we hadn’t known (or perhaps had forgotten), and the price, in tandem with J.D. Johannes’s Outside the Wire, was somewhere around the intersection of dirt and cheap. Recommended.