Based off of the autobiography of the same name, American Sniper is the story of Chris Kyle – ‘the most deadly sniper in American History’. With over 160 ‘confirmed kills’ over four tours, Kyle is routinely described as a legend as the story follows him from childhood to his service in the Iraq war to his PTSD. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film stars Bradley Cooper as the famous sniper.
This movie reminds me a lot of Captain Phillips. Directed by relatively reputable names, they both contain a solid performance from a high-profile actor playing a character that is highly controversial in real life but is sold as an American hero for the film’s sake. I obviously don’t know him personally, but from everything I’ve read, Chris Kyle seems to like to make up stories. Aside from the famous Jesse Ventura incident (in which Kyle claimed that Ventura said that the SEALs “deserved to lose a few” and was subsequently punched out by Kyle, an incident that never happened and resulted in a lawsuit from Ventura), Kyle also claimed to have killed two carjackers in Texas and over 30 looters after Hurricane Katrina, both of which events didn’t happen and are incredibly unsettling things to lie about. Ignoring all of that though, how is the movie?
Not very good. The whole film is too one-dimensional and one-sided to give the audience much of anything to feel except for blatant patriotism. Despite over 100 credited actors in the film, there are only four characters: Chris Kyle, Chris Kyle’s frustratingly annoying wife who’s not given anything to do but cry (Sienna Miller), evil Muslims who all want to kill America, and other soldiers. That’s about all we’re given, leading to a few simple scenes being repeated over and over for the duration of the 132 minute movie.
Bradley Cooper gives a great performance as Chris Kyle, but it feels like he’s in the wrong movie. Given his tendency for playing somewhat mentally unstable characters who are charismatically uncharismatic, he seemed like a natural choice for the role once Kyle’s defining trait was established as “likes to beat people up”. However, the film paints Kyle as a much more a hero than a maniac. This causes Cooper’s performance to seem out-of-place as he creates a much more realistic portrait of a man who’s a great sniper but also kind of a jerk.
The whole movie just doesn’t flow very well. While the film does a great job at portraying modern warfare, it quickly devolves into mindless action save a few choice scenes. Not only is it mindless action, but the movie has the pretension to claim that it’s something more. The film asserts throughout that Kyle is a hero and a legend, but except for a brief montage near the beginning of the film, we don’t see any reason why. When we’re back at home, all the audience gets to see is Kyle being told by his wife that he’s not the same. Nothing deeper is explored. For those of you who are overly patriotic, you will likely enjoy this film quite a bit, but I just couldn’t get into it. 4/10.