Director – Clint Eastwood (Mystic River)
Cast – Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
Plot – Based on the true life story of America’s most lethal sniper Chris Kyle (Cooper) and his experiences during his 4 separate tours of the Middle East and the strain it put on his relationship with wife Taya (Miller).
“If you think that this war isn’t changing you, you’re wrong. You can only circle the flames so long”
Review by Eddie on 27/01/2015
Talk about poetic license. Having read Chris Kyle’s autobiography on his time in the Navy SEALS and his experience as a sniper in the Middle East, there was countless times throughout this picture that I caught myself questioning whether certain things happened and other times I was bemused at just how much screenwriter Jason Hall had adopted the story of Kyle into a more by the numbers hunt for the “Big Baddie”. While Hall and director Clint Eastwood have meddled with many of Kyle’s most central experiences in the war, at its core American Sniper is still an often thrilling and well made (if slightly by the numbers) examination on war and the toll it takes on those within it.
A story and subsequently movie tailor made for those with the stars and stripes proudly flying outside their house, American Sniper is an often fascinating look at the burden war takes on an individual and those living with them. Chris Kyle and his dedication to his SEAL brothers and the want to protect them is an amiable ambition that supporters or detractors of the war could only but admire. Kyle was a man that put country first, God second and family third, a somewhat questionable order of life’s priorities that endure thanks to Kyle being totally sincere. In Kyle’s autobiography it was clear that the man had a deep love and desire to protect his country and that’s something Eastwood and Hall get across well whereas something they strangely struggle with is Kyle’s actual sniping. A large chunk of Kyle’s tale is how he managed to bag 160 plus confirmed kills but here in this movie Kyle’s sniper escapades feel like an afterthought. Its clear director and screenwriter thought it best to find another anchor to lay their movie on and you’ll see more of Kyle with a machine gun than you’ll see sniper battles so it comes with a pre-warning not to expect to many long range cat and mouse battles. With the focus somewhat laid off seeing target after target drop to the ground due to Kyle’s keen eye the film finds its soul at the centre of Kyle himself and his relationship with his wife Taya.
In a story that seemed open to extract emotion out of the battlefield, American Sniper is a strangely emotionless affair when it comes to Kyle and his comrades. With weakly drawn and short-changed side players, you’ll struggle to find emotional investment in Kyle and his brothers of war yet thanks to Cooper’s stunning turn and Miller’s nicely constructed support, the film finds much needed heart in the love of these two people. Cooper really does give a career defining turn, physically different and sometimes unrecognisable; Cooper inhabits Kyle with a respect and believability that elevates a stock standard tone to another level. Whenever he is beside Miller or simply on the phone to her, the film feels more alive than any of the so called big battle sequences and it’s a credit to Hall and also Eastwood that they have accomplished such a well-drawn relationship to pay homage to a genuine real life love story.
I don’t feel that American Sniper is an amazing film, a film somewhat undeserving of some of the plaudits placed upon it by the Academy but it’s a film that does its job in a way you’d expect from such an experienced filmmaker like Eastwood and a nice step up for him in quality after a string of recent misfires. Elevated to another level by Cooper’s great portrayal of Kyle and with a powerful last 10 minutes, many will be calling American Sniper one of the better films of recent memories despite it being a sometimes frustratingly cold and generic America FTW tale. In the end American Sniper could’ve been something more but also so much less and judging by its incredible box office and audience reception, that’s all anyone has asked for.
3 and a half unfortunate rattlesnakes out of 5