American Sniper is directed by Clint Eastwood and stars Bradley Cooper in an adaptation of the autobiography of real-life Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle. Kyle earned the reputation as being the deadliest sniper in US military history and the film tells the story of his reasons for joining the military, his experiences during four tours of duty in Iraq and the consequences for himself and his family.
For the purposes of this review I’m not going to go through the controversies around the alleged sanitisation of his character or the portrayal of the Iraqi people etc etc. There’s plenty of stuff on the Internet if that floats your boat. I’m going to judge American Sniper as a stand-alone film. The biggest positive for the film is the performance of Bradley Cooper. It’s difficult to distinguish how he looks and talks from the real Chris Kyle and you get a clear sense of the character he is trying to play.
In just over two hours the film covers a lot of ground in a very efficient manner and it ticks a lot of boxes. At times there are scenes of great tension, we see the dehumanisation of Kyle and the clear signs of post traumatic stress order. Sienna Miller does a solid job playing the part of his wife, Taya, who the film uses to tease out the fact that behind his rock-like exterior not all is well with Chris Kyle.
Therein lies my main problem with the film. It doesn’t flow. It skips and jumps along as Kyle experiences a change in his life or has another revelation. To illustrate, he watches a news story about a bombing so he abruptly goes to a military recruitment office, OK so you’re patriotic and want to fight so join the Seals, I’m back from my first tour so I’ll be distant and so it goes on. I never got that sense that I could see the transitions his character makes or fully understood his motivations for his actions.
I enjoyed the movie overall but it is flawed and I am mystified by its Oscar nomination for best film. It really seems to have found an audience in the US and in the UK it has had a strong second weekend driven by positive word of mouth. What can I say, check it out if you are a regular film goer but if you’re on a budget there are better options out there. My rating 3/5.