‘The most deadly sniper in U.S. military history’ is one title given to Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, though, American Sniper is more than a bloodbath action romp. The man behind the gun is where the main action lies.
The Academy Award nominations announcement contained a major shock with the name of Bradley Cooper under Best Leading Actor – his third consecutive nomination and one which I believe to be justified. Cooper has come a long way from his big breakthrough role as crew co-ordinator in ‘comedy’ flick The Hangover and can now be accepted as a certified Hollywood leading man. His transformation into hardened veteran of war involves a restrained performance of a man who doesn’t celebrate the nasty elements of the war, unlike those he’s around. His life is changed by these events and you can’t help but feel for Kyle as he has to walk a tightrope between helping save the lives of his colleagues and friends on his multiple tours of duty, whilst ensuring that he doesn’t lose touch of his fledgling family back home.
American Sniper excels in its gripping combat sequences, which are some of the best offered from Eastwood’s directing and almost equally matches pound for pound its principal Iraq War predecessor The Hurt Locker. The viewer is immersed into the war-zone, being cast through the lens of Kyle’s long ranged rifle. Tension escalates as Kyle evaluates the consequences of pulling the trigger. Be it on man, woman or child. The brutality of the conflict resulting from America’s invasion of Iraq is displayed here with a pulsating climactic scene in a sandstorm, where visibility is low but excitement is far from it.
The film has come in for criticism from some corners for being pro-war. Canadian funny-man Seth Rogen likened American Sniper to the fictitious Nazi propaganda movie Nation’s Pride featured in the final act of Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds. He has a point in that both concern snipers. Though, that’s about it as it’s like saying that Jaws is a similar film to Sharknado as both feature the aquatic creatures putting human lives in danger. Rogen’s comments seem misguided mainly to me, as American Sniper doesn’t feel like its trying to put across a political statement, rather it is aims to be a biopic of one man’s feats that took place under the trying conditions of battle. Not only this but various military personnel voice their disdain with the pointless war that their country has embarked them on and both the physical and mental effects warfare has on those involved are highlighted throughout with the struggles of veterans being featured prominently. Furthermore, despite being talented with his weapon, Kyle acts with reluctance to his assigned hero status, rejecting the brash nicknames such as ‘legend’ thrusted upon him.
The only major area where the film falls down on is a relatively average script, unusually so for a project with Clint Eastwood attached, considering how high the standard the writing is in Gran Torino, Mystic River and other war adaptation Letters From Iwo Jima. It should be stated that whilst I was thrilled by the quality of the action scenes, they’re not for everyone and other than Bradley Coopers performance, those disinclined to on-screen violence may take little away from viewing.
Whilst there is no political statement or any innovation in the field of war movies, American Sniper executes its strength well. Intensely thrilling action is coupled with the honest performance of Bradley Cooper, making American Sniper one of the top bracket Gulf War based war films.