Movie Review: American Sniper (2014)

Posted: October 11, 2015 in Action, Drama
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american sniper

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was a Texan who dreamed of being a cowboy, but shortly after the bombings in Kenya and Tanzania in 1998, Kyle signs up for the Navy Seals, and becomes a sniper.  Kyle is deployed to Iraq in Fallujah, a hotbed of insurgent activity.  He becomes legendary as a sniper, but yearns to join the Marines on the ground.  Soon Kyle is chasing after a man called the “Butcher” (Mido Hamada) Abu Musab Al Zarqawi’s right hand man, and an Iraqi sniper named Mustafa. (Sammy Sheik) But after four tours in Iraq, Kyle’s wife, Taya, (Sienna Miller) wants Chris home, and mentally and emotionally whole.  Does Kyle achieve his missions, does he make it back home?

I was willing to give this movie a chance and it got off to a pretty good start, but soon it got into propaganda territory.  The problem is, that Kyle is portrayed as not only a hero, but a superhero, he is written as flawless, and that makes for a dull character, he beats up a bully to protect his little brother, he’s a sharpshooter from the time he is a 12 or 13 year old.  When in Iraq, he can do no wrong, every person he shoots is a terrorist or terrorist sympathizer.  Where’s the conflict, where are the flaws? Moreover, the Iraqis are all portrayed as terrorists or terrorist sympathizers, even kids are carrying rocket launchers in this movie, that’s an overly simplistic worldview.  A few scenes of Kyle’s PTSD, are shown, but that seems like mere window dressing. The writer of this movie has done nothing of note, and this screenplay should not be lauded.

Bradley Cooper does a masterful job as Chris Kyle, he inhabits this role and makes it his own.  The Texas accent was subtle and not overdone.  Cooper put on weight and muscle ad grew a beard for the role, and so as he grew physically to resemble Kyle, it must have been easier to play him.  Coper is limited by the one dimensional characterization of Kyle, so he can’t really show much of an emotional range, but he does well with what he’s given.   Sienna Miller has one good scene, and again it’s her first one where Taya meets Chris.  After that she plays an alternately weepy, sometimes hectoring girlfriend/wife, that grated on my nerves.Both American Sniper and Zero Dark Thirty seem politically motivated and are therefore unlikely to go down as great war movies, like The Great Escape or Stalag 17.

Clint Eastwood directs an incredibly gripping scene in American Sniper, but unfortunately, it’s the first scene of the movie, and the direction gradually devolves from there.  Eastwood juxtaposes the scenes  in such a way that he seems to be conflating Iraq and 9/11, and also Al Qaeda and Iraq.  Furthermore, the dramatic tension of the first few sniper targets, is lost later in the film, and the shooting sequences feel more like a video game, and these visualizations, as well as a poorly written script make war seem appealing to the uninitiated.   Eastwood is an incredibly talented director, it’s hard to believe he didn’t have an agenda here.

American Sniper:  Shoots itself in the foot.

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