Directed by Clint Eastwood, who is at his very best tackling real life subjects and stories, American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle, (played magnificently by Bradley Cooper), a real- life American hero who was a US Navy Seal sniper that had the most kills and became a legend during the Iraq war.
This movie is a skilled character study of an ordinary man and his journey through life that led to him being the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history. Eastwood weaves this tale with a sure handedness that doesn’t force of Chris’s patriotism down your throat.
The story begins with Chris and his brother working as cowboys in the rodeo circuit. There’s a flashback to Chris hunting with his father when he was young and how his father praised his skills in shooting a deer. His father was stern and taught them to be a “wolf”, not a “sheep” (yes a cliché) and this instills in Chris the determination to live honorably and forge his own path. So much so Chris joins the navy after witnessing the 9/11 attacks on television. His lifelong mantra from that moment forward is “God, country, family” (yes in that order) and “leave no man behind”. It’s somewhat unbelievable that Chris goes from a fun loving, drinking, party boy cowboy to this deeply loyal, navy seal where his only goal in life is to make sure his brothers in arms stay alive. Chris meets and falls in love with Taya (Sienna Miller, totally unrecognizable), they marry and during their wedding reception he gets his first orders that he’s going to Iraq.
Sienna plays Taya with a sincerity and we can’t help but sympathize with her while Chris spends four tours of duty in Iraq. We see the growth in his judgment on whether to shoot civilians, children or anyone who threatens the lives of his brothers in arms. He never falters when justifying that his duty is to protect. It’s either “kill or be killed”. Cooper plays Chris with as honest a portrayal of a sensitive, brave killer. As he peers through the scope of his sniper rifle, finger itching to pull the trigger, we can only guess what must be going through Chris’ mind. Eastwood and Cooper drag us into the world of a sniper and we desperately and anxiously hold on during this roller coaster ride.
Eastwood delivers war realism as only he knows how (Flag of Our fathers, Iwo Jima) and rivals the realism of The Hurt Locker (bomb finder instead of sniper). The only flaw is that we are never quite sure why it’s Chris that stands out from the rest of the soldiers, what makes him so loyal to the US and why he prefers to do extra tours in Iraq instead of being home with his wife and kids. We empathize with Taya as she struggles to be a wife and mother while Chris chooses to go back to Iraq. One of the most heart wrenching scene is when Chris is on the phone with Taya and is caught in a surprise attack. We watch hopelessly as Taya hears the battle on the other end of the dropped phone. This film is first rate with nauseatingly intense cinematography. Kudos to Eastwood for planting us beautifully inside the mind of a sniper.
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
Director: Clint Eastwood
Company: Warner Brothers
Now Showing: Limited In Theatres
MPAA Rating: R (war violence, sexual references/content, and language)