American Sniper, 2014.
Directed by Clint Eastwood.
Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Cory Hardrict, Jake McDorman, Kyle Gallner, Luke Grimes and Sam Jaeger.
Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
There are two viewpoints to take when watching Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper; one of them is right with the other being wrong. The consensus from American Sniper‘s detractors appears to be that it’s protagonist, Chris Kyle, was an unlikable jingoistic God-fearing USA loving sociopath that took pleasure in taking lives overseas in Iraq, and that may be true. Chris Kyle was a complex man with his own personal set of beliefs and ideologies that the movie isn’t going to shy away from in order to create a saint of a human being that did no wrong. The point of American Sniper isn’t glorification of that mindset, but rather to be understood as a tragic heartbreaking character study of a soldier that was mentally broken by war. Where American Sniper‘s true power lies however is that Chris Kyle isn’t the only one; PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) is something far too many people are sadly suffering from.
Director Clint Eastwood brings these horrors to life with brutally realistic detail. When Eastwood is handling heavy material and depicting violence in raw visceral form, he is on top of his game and a world class caliber auteur. Some of you may have seen the trailer where Chris Kyle is forced with a stomach churning decision to fire on a child that may or may not be holding a bomb, and when that scene plays out during the course of the actual movie the results are harrowing; it leaves images in your mind that will never be forgotten. And from that moment early on in the film it is clear what American Sniper‘s purpose is; to show us how utterly fucked up and disgusting some things our soldiers have to do are. They then have to live with this guilt and trauma, but are clearly unable to return to every day normal life.
The effects of PTSD are another area where Eastwood shows off excellent craftsman as a director, mixing sound levels as Chris Kyle reacts to normality, having him look traumatized at the sight of a power tool for he has seen it used as a means of torture, and more. American Sniper is a perfect mixture of the four tours that Kyle served, and how each one further whittled down his strength to function in society .
Of course, none of this is as powerful as it is without Bradley Cooper’s phenomenally dedicated performance as the most lethal sniper in US history. His portrayal isn’t a stereotypical one filled with rage, but rather a much more subdued one. Sure, there are moments in the heat of battle where Chris Kyle gets loud and intense, but the fireworks spark much more during emotional scenes of him dealing with the guilt of missing the growth of his family, and his after mentioned struggle to adjust between the lifestyles of war and normal life. It goes without saying that this is the performance of Bradley Cooper’s career and could potentially go down as his greatest ever. Hell, it might just be one of the best performances ever period.
Coming full circle now, I don’t agree with many of Chris Kyle’s personal beliefs. I’m not really big on God for one, nor was I a supporter of the war. None of these things matter though because American Sniper isn’t a film with a political agenda, meaning you shouldn’t bring one into your viewing experience. Instead, focus on the scintillating look at how morally fucked and horrifying some of the actions these men must take are, and the consequences bestowed upon them when trying to return to a normal life. Whether or not you believe in the purpose in any war is irrelevant, brave men and women go out there and sacrifice their lives. They never return the same person they were when they left, and that is what American Sniper highlights.
The only real nitpicks with American Sniper are some noticeably bad effects here and there. CGI blood may turn some people off, but the hilariously awful robot baby is hard to let slide. Sienna Miller even said that it was so distracting it caused her and Bradley Cooper to flub a few takes. Nevertheless, pretty much all of this is mitigated by some impeccable directing of the battle sequences, which are truly exhilarating.
American Sniper is one of the best films of 2014; a truly powerful look at a man that whether you believe he is a legendary hero or not, was tasked with incredible hardships and rough decisions on the battlefield. It changed his life forever, probably for the worse, but that’s war. It is good for no one and nothing positive comes from it. Instead, the experience just breaks people mentally, something American Sniper excels at depicting thanks to director Clint Eastwood on his game, Bradley Cooper with a remarkably restrained and powerful performance, thrilling action with raw grit, and slick directorial tricks to showcase the effects of PTSD.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder – An aficionado of film, wrestling, and gaming. He currently writes for Flickering Myth, We Got This Covered, and Wrestle Enigma. Follow me on Twitter.