On its opening weekend in the US, American Sniper has surpassed expectations by breaking a record and becoming the most successful movie opening for Clint Eastwood. So does it live up to the hype?
American Sniper is based on a book by Chris Kyle. The film adaptation takes a look at the life of Chris during his time in Iraq between 1999 and 2009. When we meet him, he is in the middle of making a decision whether to pull the trigger or not, on a child. Followed by flashbacks to show his family life. While serving in Iraq, he becomes a legend among the troops not only for his deadly accuracy with a rifle, but for the number of kills attributed to him. This film depicts how he become known as the “deadliest sniper” in military history, including how that effected his health and family. The real emotional toll of the war shows when he returns home from duty.
This is a complex and controversial movie bound to upset a lot of viewers, but despite what some have been claiming, it certainly does not glorify war by any means. There is nothing in the story that would leave you believing that war of any kind is superb.
American Sniper is not a typical war movie; rather it’s a story about Chris Kyle and his experiences during the war in Iraq. It is told through the eyes of an American, although the film makers try not to make any political statement one way or the other.
Movie starts off in Iraq while in the middle of a battle, that sets the tone of the film; it is intense, dark, raw and will be distressing to some. Clint Eastwood certainly does not shy away from depicting the ugly realities of war and the effects it has on people – mentally and physically. Throughout the film, we get to see how much Chris struggled mentally with his experiences at war, while also managing his ordinary normal life with his family in America. The contrasts between his two worlds are often uncomfortable to watch.
The story of the film takes place in Iraq, stateside and in brief flashbacks of how Chris became the “deadliest sniper”. It’s clear that this tactic is used to show Chris in a more relatable light to the audience, without it you’d only see a man who is brilliant as a sniper. The time jumps and his time in the US also help to ease the relentless tension in the story.
Eastwood wasn’t originally picked to direct American Sniper, however he did an incredible job of telling Kyle’s story and with his experience and style, he was the perfect choice. This is a hard story to watch, but it would have been even tougher to create a film that everyone could appreciate despite their beliefs and views. While there are not as many action depicted as some would expect, the combat scenes that are played out are chilling and gripping at the same time. Cinematography is perfect for this genre. The lifeless towns, ruined dirty buildings and dust storms help the viewer understand just how hostile the situation is for these men and women.
Bradley Cooper might have given the best performance of his career in this film. He did what many actors have failed to do lately and that is disappearing into the role. As a viewer, you’ll see Chris Kyle not Cooper. It must have helped being a producer too. Sienna Miller plays his supportive but suffering wife. Even though her character has much less screen time, she is a pivotal part of the recovery of her husband towards the end.
I’ve attended the premiere of American Sniper in Los Angeles back in November, so when the opportunity came up to watch it again here in Australia, I took it. To my surprise the film was different to what I have seen in LA. Some edits were made in the beginning and it seemed to have watered down the impact of the story. While the film is still powerful and greatly recommendable, I would have rated it higher had they kept it in its original form. In its current version, I give it 7 stars out of 10.
American Sniper is in cinemas now.