I remember a tragic story in the news a year or so ago about an ex-sniper that was killed on a firing range helping other soldiers that had come home with PTSD. I didn’t realize at first that this film was about the same guy. American Sniper is essentially a biopic about Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, who was so accurate that he was dubbed a legend by his fellow soldiers. He saved countless lives on the battlefield in the Middle East. But after four tours of duty, he has trouble leaving the war behind when he returns to his wife and children.
American Soldier is directed by Clint Eastwood, from a screenplay written by Jason Hall, adapted from the book co-written by Chris Kyle himself and two others. Jason Hall got to know Chris Kyle and his wife and there’s a sense of that in the film. Their home life isn’t shined up. It’s shown with all the stresses that come with being married to a person that has been to war and is having trouble readjusting.
Directing and editing of American Sniper is clearly the work of seasoned experts. I found it really effective. the film opens with Kyle in his first tour of duty and he’s on the roof of a building (you see this in the trailer.) He sees a woman give a young boy a grenade. Kyle has to decide in seconds whether this boy is a threat to his fellow troops on the ground, which basically will result in him killing this boy or not. As we see him about to pull the trigger, it cuts to him as a boy shooting a deer – hunting with his dad. It’s such a great transition.
Then we follow Kyle as a boy with his younger brother, them growing up, his time as a rodeo cowboy, until we come back to that moment on the roof. Then the film focuses on Kyle and his tours vs. being home with his wife as they start a family. We see how he gradually seems to be more comfortable in the war zone, while becoming increasingly uncomfortable with what he sometimes has to do in the name of defending his country. There are at least a couple scenes that were incredibly affecting.
American Sniper manages to not to be either pro or anti war, per se, but rather just tells the story of this one man’s experiences, as well as his wife’s. It’s easy to say how horrible war is, as well as to say how it is an unfortunate but real aspect of our lives. But this film is just about telling Chris Kyle’s story. It’s pretty heart-breaking in various ways, and also shows how complex the moral and ethical decisions are when in the face of the challenges of being a soldier. Will there be a division of opinions here? Sure. But this is a really good film that will spark some conversation. There is even some debate over whether some of the things Chris Kyle claimed to have done were true. Those in the know will be aware of the story that Kyle punched out Jessie ‘The Body’ Ventura, a claim in which Ventura successfully debunked in a liable suit he won in court. So who knows about some of Kyle’s personal claims. Clearly the things he did as a Navy Seal are on the record .
I really liked American Sniper. It’s not without its’ faults, but I loved the performances, especially Bradley Cooper. He’s quite excellent; externally showing his firm stance of defending his country, his pride in service. But his eyes tells the story of his internal conflict about the things he’s done. The question here is really whether there is enough to make this a GREAT film, or shall we say Oscar material. I don’t know that it will find it’s place with other iconic war films like Platoon or Full Metal Jacket. But it’s a very solid biopic and I’m giving it four kittenhands.
~ Neil T. Weakley, your average movie-goer, noticing that Bradley Cooper gained a bunch of weight for this role. He went all method on us.