A Movie Review

of American Sniper (2014)

 

By Lance Zedric

I didn’t cry when “Old Yeller” died—but American Sniper ripped my guts out. It was an emotional meat grinder that mashed, smashed, and kneaded my senses in every scene. It made me laugh, hate, hope, and connect with a character on more levels than ever before. It wiped me out. And I wasn’t alone.

Based on the book by the same name, American Sniper (Warner Bros. – 2015) is the true story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who amassed 160 confirmed kills in four tours of duty in Iraq and became the top sniper in the history of the U.S. military. Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, is a born protector. Early in the film, Kyle’s father explains that there are “wolves, sheep and sheepdogs in this world,” and the young Kyle clearly identifies with the latter; a patriotic ethos that compels him to enlist in the SEALs at age 30 after the bombing of the U.S. embassy in Tanzania and later drives his obsessive need to protect American soldiers in Iraq despite the emotional toll that it has upon his wife (Sienna Miller) and young children.

Known as the “Devil of Ramadi” by Iraqi insurgents, Kyle was the most wanted man in Iraq during the war and had a $180,000 bounty on his head, placing him in the crosshairs of the insurgent’s top sniper. The tense vis-a-vis matchup with his skilled counterpart fuels the foreign aspect of the film. Conversely, Kyle becomes famous among the U.S. troops that he protects and is nicknamed "Legend," a moniker that he is uncomfortable with initially, but comes to tolerate and tacitly enjoy.

While many critics applauded the acting and pace of the movie, some of the same viewed it as irresponsible and one-sided, going as far to say that Eastwood was "unbalanced and didn’t give the insurgents’ view."

Screw that. For example, Eastwood gave the Japanese side in Letters from Iwo Jima (2006), and it was well done. But that story was about the Japanese--who just happened to be the enemy. Kyle’s story is his own—as was Marcus Latrell’s in Lone Survivor (2013) and Louis Zamperini’s in Unbroken (2014), and besides, forcing women and children into suicide missions or using them as human shields doesn’t merit a view. This is a movie—not a grade school swim meet. Everybody doesn’t get a trophy. A double-tap perhaps. Others write that the film is “too pro-American” and “too patriotic.” Really? Moving on.

Normally, my reviews contain a lot of specifics (spoilers), but this time is different. However, Bradley Cooper was magnificent, and his unpublicized USO trip to Iraq years ago assuredly strengthened his bond with soldiers and provided a unique perspective into his role. He commanded every scene and convinced the audience that he was Chris Kyle, which demonstrated his evolution as an actor. Sienna Miller was equally mesmerizing as Kyle’s wife. She brought humor, sexiness, and balance to the film and the on-screen chemistry with Cooper was electric.

American Sniper is a product that director Clint Eastwood should be proud of. The richly-layered characters, compelling story, snappy tempo, and superb acting make it a strong contender for Best Picture. Everyone who watches American Sniper should be affected in some way, but if not, perhaps a visit to a military hospital might help. That is, if they're not showing Old Yeller. 8.5 out of 10 stars.

Actor Bradley Cooper as Navy SEAL Sniper Chris Kyle.

Clint Eastwood directing, American Sniper.

Chris Kyle with his book, American Sniper.