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American Sniper - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
American Sniper
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B+
Editing: B

Relatively early on in American Sniper, the main character, Chris, clarifies that he's a Texan, not a redneck. When asked what the difference is, he replies, "We ride horses; they ride their cousins." All righty then.

The script, by Jason Hall adapted from the co-authored autobiography by the real Chris Kyle, occasionally dips into these unnecessarily, if subtly, offensive bits of dialogue. A bit of ethnocentrism here, a hint of homophobia there. They're easy to miss if you're not paying attention, and admittedly, the story is absorbing enough to make that fairly easy.

One gets the sense that the real Chris Kyle was an idealistic patriot of the more typical Southern ilk, at least from the perspective of director Clint Eastwood, who we already know to be a Republican-supporting conservative. From that perspective, he actually exercises admirable restraint in the telling of this story, which focuses more on the emotional and mental cost of war than on politics. Politics are, mercifully, mostly nonexistent here. But, you can find hints of them here and there. There's certainly a bit of an "America, Fuck Yeah!" subtext to all the proceedings.

Chris is portrayed by Bradley Cooper as a guy who enlists in the military for purely patriotic -- and, by extension, noble -- reasons, after seeing the Twin Towers fall. He does four different tours, and nothing is ever said by a single character about the false pretenses used to get people fighting the war in Iraq to begin with. That's perhaps a tad disingenuous. All Chris has to say about it is how proud he is to be protecting "More than just this dirt" and being there to save all his fellow Navy Seals with his sniper rifle. More than once he calls the people he's killing "savages," which I think we're meant to understand is just the enemy fighters, rather than the civilian population.

Chris Kyle is "the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history," you see -- the reason we're to understand his story is worth telling. Promoters certainly don't want us to forget this fact; it's written across both the movie poster and the cover of the original book. As a character, he reacts to this distinction with humility, like a dutiful movie military hero. We don't see him make any mistakes in the line of duty, in fact. The central conflict revolves around his obsession with sticking to what he sees as his patriotic duty, at the expense of his relationship with a wife (Sienna Miller) and children at home.

But let's just accept all that, shall we? We can live with it. It's still a movie, and none of us expects it to change the world. It doesn't particularly deserve the level of Oscar consideration it's getting, which would probably not be happening were it not directed by Oscar darling Clint Eastwood, but that doesn't make it bad. It'll probably not work for skeptical liberals who scoff at its oversimplification of this particular war's meaning and context, but all that is still presented in the mind of Chris Kyle. Certainly plenty of people at least vaguely like this guy exist.

And Bradley Cooper does a solid job portraying him, and not just because he gained so much weight and beefed up quite impressively. He's almost unrecognizable with his new thick neck. He's very convincing as a purebred Texan who loves to hunt. It's the writing, not the acting, that gives this film its weakness. A flashback involving supposed words of wisdom from Chris's father over the dinner table is a little corny.

The battle scenes are plentiful but not excessive given the subject matter, and are well staged. This is what might make it worth seeing, as Eastwood manages to sustain tension and suspense in these sequences even though, as a true story, Chris's fate is a matter of public record. The portrayal of that fate, which comes out of left field where you least expect it, is the makings of an awkwardly abrupt ending. But there is a certain finesse to the unfolding of the story up to that point.

This film has a fair amount in common with The Hurt Locker, which was also about a military man with a specific skill that he locked onto and then struggled to re-integrate back home. In short, American Sniper has nothing new to offer, really, except new faces dealing with the same issues others dealt with before them. But original or not, the story is told well.

Bradley Cooper is the gifted Texan in AMERICAN SNIPER.

Overall: B
1 comment or Leave a comment
From: (Anonymous) Date: January 19th, 2015 08:07 am (UTC) (Link)
Nice review and I agree about the abrupt ending I admit I didn't know much about Kyle in fact I knew nothing until I heard from a friend of mine he is not a fan of Kyle and shared with me about a fun in with Jessie Ventura and Ventura sued Kyle and won I didn't hear about anything in the movie about that. I think this kyle guy was not liked by a lot of people. His father made sure that this movie was made to honor him for the hero that he was. So none of what I know is factual.. But it has made me curious enough to start checking it out. I didn't even know he was killed by a veteran that he was helping. I do appreciate your review/ critics. I don't watch many war movies and not sure why this one drew me to the theater other than I like Clint Eastwood's work and his effective minimalist way to story tell. Of course Bradley cooper isn't bad to watch either!! I will read the book and find out more about the guy. Even though u thought beginning with his father was a little corney it was just meant to set the stage and give a background of his childhood and the influence his father had in the idealistic patriotic ways that were taught to his sons. His brother didn't seem to adopt any of those ideas and the movies made him out to be horribly effected by the war! The weaker vessel so to speak. Over all I was totally entertained but I thought the wife was a whiney pain in the ass!
1 comment or Leave a comment