American Sniper (2014)

American-Sniper-Movie-Poster

Regardless of what myself or others think about the film, it cannot be denied that this film has the best marketing of any film this year. Whoever spliced this trailer deserves all the awards because this film is gaining a lot of traction. I didn’t know much about this story before moving to Texas, but after living in Houston for a good five months I slowly learned more about this heroic man and the effect he had on his nation. I just wish the film dived deeper into just how amazing this man was.

Chris Kyle endures NAVY SEALS training.
Chris Kyle endures NAVY SEALS training.

Growing up in Texas, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) had that Southern drawl and spent many of his evenings riding bulls and living the cowboy lifestyle. He hadn’t yet found his calling, until the terrorist attacks of 9/11. After watching the horrors of the event unfold on television, Kyle enlisted into the marines immediately and went through all the necessary training in order to become a NAVY SEAL, the most lethal and elite of our military. As a child, Kyle was big into hunting and his long-shot abilities were second to none. Given these skills, he naturally became a sniper when he began his work as a SEAL.

Before heading overseas to serve his first tour, Kyle met Taya (Sienna Miller) at a bar and fell for her instantly. The two hit it off and spent as much time as they could together, eventually leading to their marriage. Then, it was time for Kyle to head into battle, where he would oversea his brothers and ensure their safety. This is no easy task, as anyone of any age could be a threat and he has to decide what to do. More than anything, Kyle was frustrated by the men he couldn’t save and it plagued his mind throughout the multiple tours he took. During all his time, he earned the title of the “most lethal sniper in American history”, but at what cost?

Chris Kyle endures NAVY SEALS training.
Chris Kyle endures NAVY SEALS training.

American Sniper is a predominately affecting tribute to America’s Deadliest Sniper and the trials he endured on both the battlefield and at home. While the film does a great job of taking us through the life of this heroic man, we ultimately learn next-to-nothing about him, or his family. The central focus lies on his patriotism and commitment to his country, but he does have a family and was dealing with PTSD and we don’t get to explore much of either of those. The acting is solid, the direction is strong, and the emotions are sure to flow by the end credits.

Bradley Cooper is the one-and-only star of this film and he managed to do a very impressive job. Sporting a Southern drawl this time around, Cooper also bulked up and is the farthest from any role he’s yet to play. As Chris Kyle, Cooper brings more in terms of facial expression than he does with his words. Cooper’s face says everything about what four tours did to his character and how he views life at home and life in combat. Cooper is best when he’s calculating a shot and holding position, hoping that he won’t have to pull the trigger. More than that, Cooper’s display of patriotism never comes off as over-the-top, as he genuinely cares for the men he’s surrounded by. His physicality stands out, but underneath there is also a gentle and affectionate family man that we catch glimpses of.

Chris and Taya are reunited.
Chris and Taya are reunited.

Director Clint Eastwood puts on an impressive display with his eye and the way with which he tells this story. Eastwood never shies away from blood or brutality, but he takes his time setting up a scene and lets the tension and stakes escalate over time. The long-shots we see, representative of the Sniper Rifle’s Scope, put you in the position of the shooter and we get an idea of just how hard that job is. Eastwood also creates a sense of dread that follows Cooper around, as friends and family are changing around him. The overall feel of the film accurately portrays the brotherhood and commitment that these men have for each other, but it also deals with life after war, if such a thing can resume.

The overall theme of “good vs. bad” is present here, but it’s presented in a very unflinching way. The story comes from the eyes of a man who’s only job is to protect his men. If that means killing an armed woman or child, then he’ll have to take the shot. Morals and ethics are a tricky subject in the field and there’s rarely any time to think. Either you take the shot, or the other person does. That was made very clear early on and that concept is a tough one to grasp ahold of. Certain firefights would have me clenching the armrests and they made it impossible to stop my legs from bouncing. The film is visually and emotionally engaging and you can only hope that everything goes well.

Chris mourns his fallen brother.
Chris mourns his fallen brother.

Given that this film is about Cooper’s character, it’s understandable that he gets the most screen-time and that we get to know him the best. The problem is, Sienna Miller plays a pivotal role in his life and we get nothing from her. She’s given a few scenes to cry and vent her frustration, but it’s all stuff that we’ve seen before. We don’t get to see any more of the women that she was at the beginning of the film and we only see her as the wife who wants her husband back. The same lack of depth goes for Cooper’s best-friends in the field, especially since I know that we’re supposed to care for them, just as Cooper does. Unfortunately, they only get a few minutes here and there and if anyone of them is injured or killed, we don’t feel the same way that Cooper does. Not enough time is spent with the people around Cooper and that causes a big lack of emotion.

American Sniper is a fairly powerful display of war, patriotism, and of a man who gave everything he had for his country. Clint Eastwood’s presentation is strong and he keeps that camera rolling, no matter how gruesome things may be. Bradley Cooper delivers another strong performance that clearly means a lot to him. The film does miss many emotional marks in regards to familial and brotherhood aspects, which left me unsure of how to feel in the end. I did grow emotionally attached to Cooper’s character, but he’s about the only one to care for. Everyone else is pushed to the back and they aren’t given the chance to make a lasting impression. Still, this film does play to a lot of strengths and it certainly does illustrate the point that this was truly one of America’s greatest.

American Sniper Trailer
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5bP1f_1o-zo

3.5 STARS!!!

3.5 / 5 stars     

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