Seems like sniping somebody in real-life is a lot harder than it is on COD.
Texas-born and bred Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) knew that he had a calling in life, but until 9/11, he didn’t know what. Once he realized that his country was going to war, he enlisted himself and not only became a Navy SEAL, but also became one of the most decorated, most lethal snipers in war history – averaging roughly around 160 kills over four tours. Surely that deserves a lot of hoo-rah praise and love, right? Well, yes, of course it does. However, at what cost? Kyle doesn’t understand this question until he comes back home to his wife (Sienna Miller) and kids, only to find himself suffering from massive bouts of PTSD, but having no clue how to handle it, or whom to talk to. Basically, he’s left to fend for himself and figure out just what all of the killing meant for him. Was it nothing? Or simply put, was it just to give his life some purpose and stand up for the country that he so heartily loved and adored.
Many war movies are made today. That much is a fact. However, there’s always a problem with figuring out which war movies can be placed into which category. For instance, there’s the kind of war movie that loves to glamorize and pat each and everyone of its soldiers on their backs, without ever going deeper and deeper into those soldiers minds, or even hinting at something being messed-up in their minds (like, say, the Kingdom). But then there’s also the kind of war movie that shows all of the heroic actions its subjects take, yet, still explores the possibility of getting into the minds of them and discovering if any of the fighting, killing and blood was worth it all (like, say, the Hurt Locker).
Somehow though, American Sniper finds itself placed firmly in the middle. And while that would seem like quite a problem, tonally-wise, Clint Eastwood shows that he’s willing to shed light on both aspects, without ever favoring one over the other. While a lesser-director would have appreciated all of Kyle’s killing of the baddies and shown him as the hero sometimes people would hail him as, Eastwood’s smarter and knows that while Kyle does deserve to be praised for his actions, he also still wants to show that there were definitely problems with the many heinous, sometimes disturbing acts of violence that not only spelled-out trouble for Kyle’s life, but many other veterans of any kind of war.
Although, if there is a problem to be had with Eastwood’s direction and the way he seems to handle the material given to him, it’s that he doesn’t fully come down to any sort of thesis, or point on war itself. Sure, he knows that warfare itself isn’t great and it sure as hell doesn’t have the best affect on those who are involved with it, but by the same token, he never comes right out and voices any of his disapproval with it, either. Which isn’t to say that every movie made about the war has to come up with stance, let it be known to the audience, and stick with it throughout the remainder of the flick, but in the 21st Century, there is a sense that if you’re going to discuss the war, you have to land on one side of the boat and not just be neutral.
You’re going to offend somebody either way, so you might as well go for it while you can.
However, this is getting more and more away from the fact that this is Chris Kyle’s story and it’s one that deserves to be told. Not because Kyle killed plenty of Iraqi soldiers during his four tours, but because he’s the kind of war-figure more should pay attention to; while he had plenty to be pleased with and proud of in his life, he was still clearly screwed-up in his own head-space, and found it incredibly hard to get on with ordinary life. The movie highlights this, and actually seems to be saying that whatever happened to Kyle’s mind when he came back from the war, wasn’t fully worth it. Sure, he killed more enemies than most soldiers could ever dream of, but the fact that when he comes home, he goes straight to a bar and can’t even go see his family, is very strange. It’s also quite sad and it wakes you up to realize that Kyle’s story is among many other soldier’s stories out there as well.
And where Chris Kyle, the person, really comes into focus is whenever Bradley Cooper’s on the screen which, thankfully, is nearly ever frame of this film. Cooper has now come to the point in his career where he’s not just a well-known actor, but a very respected one and can get most of the projects he backs, off the ground and ready for the world to see. American Sniper was one of these pieces that he really wanted to adapt and show the world, and it makes sense as to why – not because Cooper gave himself a meaty-role that highlights all of the acting-strengths in his tool-box, but because it allows him to humanize a person we maybe would have characterized as being another “redneck who likes to shoot guns, chew dip, drink beer, and do it all in the name of ‘murica”.
Both Eastwood and Cooper are smarter than just allowing for this cliche to stick. But it’s mostly Cooper who shines the brightest with Kyle’s portrayal, but he doesn’t over-do it. Most of what Kyle seems to be going through is through himself and nowhere else. Sure, you can tell by the looks on his face that he is clearly struggling to grapple with the reality of his actions and the disastrous events that he witnessed, but there always feels like there’s more to what Kyle is really feeling and it makes this character a whole lot more interesting. He’s not happy that he killed so many people over in Iraqi, but at the same time, he isn’t sad, either. He’s just numb. And every chance Cooper gets, he shows this in such a powerful way. So powerful that it’ll be quite the task not to get choked-up a bit during the end-credits. I know I did.
And if I can, so can you.
Consensus: Whenever not focusing on its main subject, American Sniper can’t come to terms with what it wants to say, but as a powerful, albeit disturbing look at the mental-anguish most war veterans go through, both on and off the battlefield, it hits harder than most war movies have in the past few years.
8 / 10 = Matinee!!
Photo’s Credit to: IMDB, AceShowbiz
I agree with most of what you said about this one. My one disagreement comes in your thought that the film “can’t come to terms with what it wants to say”. I think that’s the best part of this movie. I think it knows that no solid conclusion can be made from a story like this. Much like the subject of war, this one was made to put things out there for discussion and thought.
Like always, great review!
Great review! I’m kind of hesitant to see it as the reviews have been sort of mixed and I’m miffed that it got an Oscar nod instead of Gone Girl or Nightcrawler, but I think you’ve swayed me! (Also, it’s an Oscar movie. I’m kinda honor-bound to review it)
What an opening weekend this movie had. Just over $90 million. That’s impressive. Great review.
Great review man. I know some soldier who got back from Vietnam to Iraq they had a hard time to ajust in the everyday life. Some of them are not even there yet. It takes years sometimes. I have not seen the film It is coming to France in the next couple weeks. I am going to see it. Thanks for the review.
Nice review Dan. Looking forward to checking this one out!
Very fine review.
This isn’t a film that people should be hesitant to see because of mixed reviews. It is my feeling, and my review rating was 4 out of 5, same as Dan’s 8 out of 10, that rather than being an uninteresting film, or a badly made film, this is a very god film that is just below being a great film.
Sort of like many are criticizing the film for not be great.
I liked and connected to a line in the review that states that Dan is just numb from been in the war, and his job in the war. The impact is seriously felt by the audience. In the theater that I saw the film in on Friday was 85 % percent filled, and the people were so eerily quiet as they left the theater. Which speaks to the impact or wallop that the film delivers.
I really want to see the movie. I read an article interview that his wife did and it was very tragic how his life ended.
Saw this last week, Dan, and I thought it was terrific. I think it depicted the sniper combat quite well (not a Call Of Duty fan, so I can’t compare! LOL) and although I don’t think Cooper deserved an Oscar nomination for it, he’s solid in the role.
I saw it on Saturday and it was awesome!
You and I are of a similar mind here Dan.
This was a high-point in Cooper’s career, and another benchmark in Eastwood’s sterling repertoire. Great review for a great film.
It’s ok. It’s not really pro-war and it’s not anti-war. It just straddles the middle line without having anything to say other than to be a portrait of this man.
Pretty disappointing movie for me. Cooper was good and there were a few powerful moments, but it ultimately did not impress me with its handling of Chris Kyle. Great review, though.
I really enjoyed American Sniper, and in some ways, I actually appreciated that Eastwood didn’t take a stance on being either pro- or anti-war. The story’s focus was always Chris Kyle, and I think that’s why the film has been so successful. Well-written review, Dan!