★★★★ | American Sniper
Add American Sniper to the list of good Clint Eastwood movies.
While it’s not his best film ever (see Unforgiven and J. Edgar) nor his worst film (see the recently poorly received Jersey Boys), it’s a loyal and factual re-telling of the true story of Chris Kyle, a member of the elite Nave SEALS. He was the most lethal sniper in the history of the US Military, having 160 confirmed kills. He was also a husband and the father of two children, but being the best sniper and serving his country were the most important things in his life.
Kyle (played valiantly and accurately by Bradley Cooper) in the beginning of the film is a ranch hand in Texas. His life doesn’t amount to much, especially after he finds his girlfriend in bed with another man. But after injuring his arm, he decides to join the navy. His commitment for his country becomes embedded in him after the catastrophic events of 9/11. After months of gruelling training, he and his team are sent to Iraq to fight the enemy. And they are tasked with some of the most dangerous missions in the military. This includes heading directly into enemy territory and looking for a man called Shiekh Al-Obodi (Navid Negahban), one of the leaders of the Taliban.
Kyle serves four tours, in between each one going home to be with his family but getting the pull to serve again. He’s urged against it by his pretty wife Tanya (an amazing Sienna Miller). Even the birth of his two children doesn’t keep him home. He continues increasing his sniper kill tally, which includes women and children who threaten to kill US soldiers. Kyle is also determined to kill a man called Mustafa (played by Sammy Shiek). Mustafa is a Syrian shooter who had competed for his country in the Olympics. He’s also killing the insurgents (the Americans on the ground). Kyle is determined to kill him as he has killed one of his fellow soldiers. The film then becomes a cat and mouse story to dramatic effect, where Mustafa aims to shoot the soldiers but Kyle aims to shoot him. It all culminates in an amazing shootout between the US soldiers trapped on a rooftop in Sadr City while the enemy comes in from all sides, all in the midst of a massive sandstorm. It’s one of Eastwood’s best film sequences I’ve ever seen.
However, American Sniper doesn’t end there. Kyle, after getting shot in the massive shootout, returns home, but has a hard time rejoining society, and his wife has a hard time getting connected with him. He’s a changed man, but seems to slightly recover after he starts helping soldiers at a local veterans hospital and also helps to train them on weapons and combat tactics to lift their spirits. American Sniper would’ve had a better impact if the film ended after the shootout in Sadr City. This last bit of the film seems to be tacked on to tell the rest of Kyle’s story.
Cooper plays Kyle to great effect, however, he’s a bit too old to be playing Kyle in his younger years. But Cooper is believable as a soldier during the war, he holds his gun and interacts with his fellow (younger) soldiers very well. It’s a performance that has just won him a nomination for the Best Actor Oscar. Miller is the standout of the film, she’s excellent as Tanya – it’s the best performance of her career. And while American Sniper looks and feels like a good film, the last ten minutes don’t need to be there. American Sniper is adapted by the book of the same name by actor turned-screenwriter Jason Dean Hall. Kyle was shot and killed in Texas in 2013 by a 25-year old Marine Corps Veteran, a veteran he was trying to help.
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.