Tuesday, December 09, 2014

“American Sniper”– Movie Review



This week, I attended a screening by The New York Times Film Club of the new war drama, “American Sniper”, starring Bradley Cooper and directed by Clint Eastwood.


When a Navy SEAL becomes the most prolific sniper in U.S. military history, will he be able to adjust to life at home despite surviving the war in Iraq?


The life of Chris Kyle (Cooper) was pretty much mapped out for him since his childhood in Texas.  He never started fights, only ended them; he was quick to defend those too weak to defend themselves; and most of all, learning hunting from his father, he became a skilled marksman.  It would be these skills – but especially those with the rifle – that would result in Kyle becoming famous for the 160 kills he accumulated by the time his career as a Navy SEAL concluded.  In fact, so notorious was he for his reputation as a sharpshooter, he earned the nickname The Legend. 

But the Iraqi insurgents he fought had their own version of Kyle – a man who worked under an al-Qaeda operative known as The Butcher, this sniper had successfully gunned-down many American soldiers during the war in that country.  With Kyle’s take-downs vastly outnumbering those of his counterpart, it is then determined that Kyle must be the sniper’s next target.  Despite various attempts to gun him down, Kyle manages to evade being shot – but men on his team are not quite so lucky, so Kyle now takes it upon himself to find and kill this Iraqi sniper. 

During Kyle’s fourth and final tour of Iraq, he is finally able to kill the sniper – but it comes at quite a cost as doing so reveals his team’s position and they are quickly surrounded by Iraqi militants seeking to take out all the soldiers.  When troops arrive to rapidly exfiltrate Kyle and his men, he finally leaves Iraq one last time and returns home.  However, it is not long thereafter that Kyle realizes he is having immense difficulty adapting to a normal life with his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and their children.  But with the emotional problems Kyle is suffering through as a result of the trauma of war, will he ever be able to live a satisfying life with his family?


“American Sniper” is based on a book of the same name; it is about the real-life episodes of Chris Kyle’s life as a sniper for The Navy SEALS during the American occupation of Iraq following the events of September 11, 2001.  The brutal, graphic action scenes in “American Sniper” intensify the more tours of duty Kyle has in Iraq; bearded and buff (he allegedly added 40 pounds of muscle for the part), Bradley Cooper is nearly unrecognizable, especially when heard with a Texas accent.  Unfortunately, what keeps the movie as merely good rather than great is the story – or perhaps stories. 

“American Sniper” tries to say far too much in its two and a quarter hour running time; much of the film has to do with Kyle’s war experiences, giving fleeting glimpses of his personal life in between tours in Iraq.  During the movie’s final quarter hour, it seems to rush to tie up all the loose ends that have to do with his family life post-SEALS.  There are at least two stories here and either one could have made for a film with a deeply satisfying ending but it seems that director Clint Eastwood was overly ambitious, cramming in everything he could possibly think of instead of winnowing the details; instead, you get a motion picture with a false ending – just when you think it’s over, it continues for another 15 minutes. 

Another issue to be taken with “American Sniper” is how the character of Taya (Kyle’s wife, played by Sienna Miller) is handled.  As written, Taya is very one-dimensional – we know little about her background, who she is or what she did for a living.  Taken literally, it would appear as though this woman merely existed so Kyle’s character could have a love interest in the movie; she is more of a cardboard cut-out than a human being and after witnessing so much of Kyle’s heroics in the war, we almost come away feeling she’s something of a selfish shrew by the way she scolds Kyle during his brief stays at home with her in between tours. 

American Sniper (2014) on IMDb

No comments:

Post a Comment

Speak Your Piece, Beeyotch!