Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner, Luke Grimes, Ben Reed, Keir O’Donnell, Sammy Sheik, and Marnette Patterson
“American Sniper” is a story about Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal sniper who served in four tours of duty in the Iraq war. Based off his memoir the film, directed by Clint Eastwood, displays the harsh realities of combat and the subsequent conflict of choice in a character study of a complicated man tasked with a complicated occupation. The themes of service, honor, revenge, regret, and justice all take form in some way throughout this film, one which seems tailored to the professional work of Clint Eastwood whose many career characters embodied these same topics. Eastwood guides “American Sniper” with ease, transitioning between war-ridden cities and familiar, albeit affected, homelands while keeping focus on a man struggling to find the balance of both.
We are introduced to Chris Kyle as a child, being taught a life lesson by his father that will form the basis of his ambitions as an adult. Chris (Bradley Cooper) grows into a wayward, hard partying adult until he is motivated by the events of September 11th to join the military, specifically the elite Navy Seals. Chris excels during boot camp at long distance marksmanship and is moved into a position as a sniper. A hero to his fellow band of brothers, which garnered the nickname “The Legend” for his confirmed enemy kills, Chris struggles with life stateside where his wife (Sienna Miller) and children must put the pieces of their life back together every time he returns home. For Chris the call to service and the responsibility of duty becomes the consuming purpose.
Bradley Cooper offers one of his best performances as Chris Kyle, creating a character that is deeply affected by the choices he has made though never completely vulnerable to those around him. His character is revered, a symbol of heroism and bravery but also hope to the men and women that serve along side him. Cooper shows the split second doubts during life or death decisions, harbors the strain of returning to a life he is unfamiliar with, and demonstrates the steadfast nature towards completing the mission regardless of the outlook. Sienna Miller is also good as Chris’ wife, a woman trying to understand a man who she seldom sees and desperately holding together the semblance of normality at home.
Eastwood is accomplished when handling war and soldiers; take for instance the attitudes of the service people in both “Letters from Iwo Jima” and “Flags of Our Fathers” or the retired veteran in “Gran Torino”. These characters are all different but they all come from the same time honored and respected tradition of military service. Here, Eastwood maneuvers through frenzied action and pauses in the quiet moments, displaying the unexpected nature of violence and the tension that is consistently present. The film transitions back and forth within Chris’ home and service life, and if Eastwood stumbles in any way it’s in the portrayal of the home life where little time is spent. The moments when Chris is home, playing the role of husband and father, are the most interesting but also the most limited. There is a lack of displaying the entire character, especially how influenced he is by the life he leaves on numerous occasions. While this demonstrates the sacrifice of those serving it could have been utilized to add depth and emotion to the character.
“American Sniper” is an interesting character study with an exceptional performance by Bradley Cooper and confidently directed by Clint Eastwood. The film wisely never consolidates politics into the narrative but instead simply displays the difficult decisions made everyday during war by men and women tasked with a job. While the film could have offered more exploration into the influences and struggles of family life for the soldier, “American Sniper” is still a well composed portrayal of a man who served his country with pride.
3.75 out of 5.00