American Sniper is the story of Chris Kyle, a NAVY SEAL who served four tours in Iraq and became the deadliest sniper in US history. The movie isn’t just about a sniper – although it does have great sniper vs. sniper action – it’s about seeing the war through a soldiers eyes and the good and bad that comes with it.
Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is a fun loving Texas cowboy who decides to join the military and become a part of the NAVY SEAL family. In a short amount of time Kyle earns his reputation as a lethal sniper while protecting Marines during the Iraq War.
The film succeeds at showing what war is like through the eyes of a sniper. The gut wrenching split second decisions, the enormous amounts of patience, and the laser like focus that’s necessary to do your job. It also shows the struggles military men and women face when they return home from war. Director Clint Eastwood cut quickly between scenes of Kyle at home with his family, and in the blink of an eye Kyle would be back overseas at war. It was a good representation of what it’s like for soldiers who deal with the jarring transitions from home, to war, to home, and back again.
Bradley Cooper is easily the best thing about American Sniper. He gives one of the year’s best performances. It’s no surprise Cooper shines during the heart pounding war scenes. What cements his performance as one of the best this year are the scenes when Kyle struggles trying to deal with the reality of being home.
Where American Sniper fails is its inability to give context as to why Chris Kyle made the decisions he did. It’s not clear why he joined the military or why he joined the SEALS. How did he feel about the war? How did what he saw have an effect on him? How did he reconcile his relationship with his wife?
During the middle part of the film, a lot is made about Kyle and his relationship with his wife (Sienna Miller) who desperately wants him home. It’s suggested Kyle suffers from PTSD and that’s what’s causing issues with him and his family -as evident in Kyle’s phone call home from the bar. At the end of the movie, everything is fine. Kyle is the perfect dad and the perfect husband and we’re not sure how he even got there. There’s absolutely no explanation.
The film does very little to develop Kyle as a character. For two hours you learn a lot about what he did as a sniper and very little about who he was as a person. It’s amazing Cooper was able to give the kind of performance he did because he wasn’t given much to work with.
American Sniper is worth seeing for Cooper’s performance and the sniper vs. sniper showdown between Kyle and a Syrian sniper nicknamed Mustafa (Sammy Sheik). As a complete film, Sniper doesn’t work as well as it should. The ‘haunted soldier heading home’ story should pull at your heartstrings but not knowing who Chris Kyle was makes it hard to care.