American Sniper is backed by a solid performance by Bradley Cooper, but ultimately its a shortsighted jingoistic film that’s a tepid remake of the Hurt Locker.
U.S. Navy SEAL Chris Kyle is sent to Iraq with only one mission: to protect his brothers-in-arms. His pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and, as stories of his courageous exploits spread, he earns the nickname “Legend.” However, his reputation is also growing behind enemy lines, putting a price on his head and making him a prime target of insurgents. He is also facing a different kind of battle on the home front: striving to be a good husband and father from halfway around the world. Despite the danger, as well as the toll on his family at home, Chris serves through four harrowing tours of duty in Iraq, personifying the SEAL creed to “leave no man behind.” But upon returning to his wife, Taya Renae Kyle (Sienna Miller), and kids, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind. [Warner Bros.]
There is a big difference between dying for your country and killing for it.
The former can give you all the glory attached to martyrdom (and hopefully a quick end to whatever inexplicable pain you’re in), while the latter means you’d essentially have to kill your own humanity to pull the trigger and then live on.
American Sniper promises to look into the life of a Navy Seal who had to do just that with 160 confirmed kills.
The film has intense scenes and while not outright gory, it isn’t exactly bloodless. It throws you right into the thick of it. In the first scene Kyle has to decide whether to shoot a boy who appears to be carrying a bomb.
Bradley Cooper delivers a great performance as Chris Kyle. He’s unrecognizable at times as the “Legend” because of his portrayal, not just because of his physical transformation.
But this Legend is turned into an idealized soldier in an obviously Hollywoodized film. Whatever moral dilemma that you saw in the beginning quickly dissipates.
The first half of the movie focuses on his four tours in Iraq jumping from one battle scene to the next, shooting bad guys – the “savages” – to protect the good guys – powerful American soldiers.
At some point the film develops a plot by inserting a formidable villain, which is really just an America FTW tale complete with a slow motion bullet.
In the second half Kyle goes through PTSD but the film leapfrogs through his recovery, showing that the man simply overcame it through benevolence and willpower.
In between you have a revolving cast of thin characters that are only there for his self-actualization, including a fake baby.
The movie avoids the ethical and political issues surrounding the War in Iraq then falsely connects it to 9/11.
Others argue that American Sniper’s myopic view is because it’s about and from Kyle’s perspective, but he has a penchant for making dubious stories.
Eastwood says its a character study but the film is one-sided, lacking depth and nuance. Many people will see it as war propaganda and they’re not entirely wrong.
American Sniper does give a look into PTSD but it fails as a biopic. Eastwood is more interested in the “Legend” and use him to wave the American flag, rather than the man who had openly admitted he doesn’t regret killing “savages”.
My Rating: 6/10