January 19, 2015

American Sniper

Clint Eastwood, 2014
Adapted from the biography of the same name, This biopic tells the story of Chris Kyle, considered the deadliest sniper in American History with 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills.

To call the opening portion of American Sniper excessively Patriotic would be an understatement. It is like a Budweiser commercial starring Kenny Chesney with two Bald Eagles sitting on his shoulders. Bradley Cooper delivers a restrained, subdued energy to his Chris Kyle character. He's a man that keeps his feelings bottled up, a tradition pased on by the now-overly-cliched 1950's style father. There are attempts to show the origins of Chris Kyle the person, but they are short. They show you the beginnings of his shooting skills with a quick opening hunting scene with his father. They show you his strong devotion to his country when he sees the 9/11 attacks on television, and he is basically on the next plane to Iraq. They are light touches. Instead of constructing a layered protagonist you are served a mumbling Cowboy. You never get a true sense of his sniping numbers piling up. The battle scenes themselves are largely one-sided and never really cut into the complexity of the Middle Eastern conflicts.

To be fair, it is still an important story without question worthy of a movie. If it continues the national dialogue about PTSD sufferers than it succeeds. People like Chris Kyle need to be commended and praised for their service to our country. If it weren't for him, soldiers like him, we would all be living a much different life. Heck, we'd probably be speaking German. But this movie fails to properly examine Chris Kyle the person. Instead it creates a hollow hero image but its a character thats lacking. And in terms of judging this as a Great War film, it isn't even in the conversation. It doesn't have the intensity or impact of a Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty. Instead, it belongs in the same category as not-so-good also rans such as Jim Sheridan’s 2009 PTSD drama Brothers starring Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. Eastwood is likely to blame. He’s certainly not Kathryn Bigelow. He’s an 84 year old filmmaker whose sensibilities have probably changed. He probably doesn’t have the energy to piss anyone off anymore. Even with the ending of the film, he takes the Werner Herzog approach. It feels like a cop-out. Chris Kyle was an American Hero, and his story would have probably been served better through the eyes of a different filmmaker.

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