Movie review: American Sniper

Americans are no strangers to uplifting war stories that reinforce one’s pride to be an American, and director Clint Eastwood’s newest movie “American Sniper” aimed to be added to that mix, painting the story of the deadliest marksman in American military history.

The movie follows protagonist Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a Navy SEAL sniper, as he fights al-Qaeda in Iraq after the 9/11 attacks. There, he faces terrorists mainly in the form of Iraqi men, but the movie also depicts more shocking enemies such as women and even children. The foil to this war he experiences is the calm back home in America: he has left his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and two later children (Ben Reed, Elise Robertson) to fight this war. During the war, Kyle’s mind is on his wife and kids, but when he arrives home, memories of his fighting linger with him – the movie’s attempt at demonstrating how much the war meant to Kyle in terms of morality, as he cannot forget all the men he did not save or all the people that he had to kill.

“American Sniper” was meant to be a patriotic movie about an American hero whose sniping prowess illustrates America’s strength. Watching this movie, I feel that it only accomplished half of what it tried to do. At times, it was easy to sympathize with Kyle and therefore make me root for him, but his two-dimensional and cliché motivations of wanting to save everyone made him less human. That being said, Eastwood’s Chris Kyle is immensely different when compared to the true Chris Kyle of American history; patriotism can go overboard and become bigotry quite easily, and in the real Chris Kyle’s interviews, it is apparent that he does not feel the same way about the war that Cooper’s portrayal did. While movie’s Kyle has every kill on his mind in the midst of his PTSD when he returns home, the real Kyle is less remorseful, and even says in interviews that he enjoyed killing “the savage” peoples in the Middle East because of their role in the war and 9/11.  In addition, many of the movie scenes were not based on true events. While that is understandable, as not all historic tales are perfect for transfer to the big screen, it is worrying to think that viewers might believe the movie is telling the full and true story, and not just one made for theatres and Blu-Ray discs.

I did not actively dislike “American Sniper,” but I do feel that Eastwood can produce better content. Many scenes were rather boring. I expect war movies to have war scenes, but I do not expect war movies to have boring and repetitive war scenes – doesn’t that defeat the point? Some moments were also incredibly sloppy: instead of filming and demonstrating one climactic event, the hypothetical scene is reduced to a single white sentence upon a black screen. I must mention that Bradley Cooper did a fantastic job at portraying not only Chris Kyle specifically, but overall a man of wartime (cliché though the character might be). Actress Sienna Miller, while portraying an important character to the protagonist, did not have an abundance of scenes, but the ones she did act in were done very well – especially in the emotional scenes – and I commend her acting. I do have a major complaint regarding the emotional scenes, however, and that is the fake baby. Seriously? Kyle and his wife are having an intense moment regarding their marriage, children, and life being affected by the war, and they are holding a legitimate baby doll. No shame, Eastwood.

While “American Sniper” will remain as a sub-par war movie about how apparently amazing, uplifting and simply inspirational America is as a country, it could have been an interesting take on the war through the eyes of a man instrumental in its history. Instead, it’s exactly what you would expect it to be, and who needs that with the abundance of other war movies America has? I give “American Sniper” a 6/10.