American Sniper garnered great attention when it was nominated for six Oscars. The hype for the film was propelled by critics and viewers alike. But, sadly, the film does not live up to that that hype.
The movie details the military life of Chris Kyle (played by a Texas twanged Bradley Cooper), the deadly American military sniper credited with 160 kills over his four tours. The movie (SPOILER) follows his life from a rodeo ranch hand to his eventual death at the hands of another veteran. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the movie pays homage to the titular Navy Seal.
The film suffers from a horrible screen play. Jason Hall created elements that weren’t in the memoir and changed many things to try to create a typical movie story. This hurts the movie. The lines are cliché and are no different than any other mediocre war film. The movie is disjointed and doesn’t flow. Here’s a scene with the Seals, here’s a scene of Yaya crying on the phone, here’s a scene of Chris holding his baby awkwardly. It’s hard to follow exactly what the story is trying to show. Is it about PTSD? Is it about the legend? Is it about revenge?
Eastwood and Cooper both falter. In the final act, Eastwood gives into Hollywood clichés of a slow motion shot which is meant to amplify the action but it just slows it down. We’ve seen the same shooting/breath sequences in other films; this adds nothing new. Cooper does well with accent never faltering from the Texas twang and impressively bulks up his physical appearance. But there are sequences where he is trying too hard to portray his feeling with his body language and it’s awkward.
But Cooper excels in those few and far between sniper moments. He does well portraying the thoughts that go through Chris’ head as he decides who is a target. Chris is given the authority to decide who is a threat and who isn’t. Cooper shows how heavy these decisions are on the man and how it affects his life in and outside of the Seals. The moments where Chris deals with his PTSD are when you feel for him the most; you want to reach out and comfort him.
Speaking of comfort, the movie does a horrible job of portraying the families of our war heroes. The role is written very one sided and Taya Kyle becomes a harpy always screaming at Chris and telling him to move on. When we do truly see the heart ache she feels for his husband, Sienna Miller butchers these moments with insane histrionics.
But, after all, it is the story of Chris’ life. In the final moments, as you find out his fate and see footage from his memorial and the irony of the situation hits you, it’s deeply moving and brings tears to your eyes. The movie does well with showing you his life, his sacrifices, and his desire to protect our country. That sticks with you as you leave the theater and maybe that’s how it should be. You remember the man, not the movie.