Film Review: American Sniper (2014)

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Veteran actor and director Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper (2014) is a somewhat controversial, yet emotional true-life film – based on the 2012 book of the same name – about Texan born-and-bred rodeo cowboy turned lethal S.E.A.L. sniper, Chris Kyle, who achieved legendary status on his four consecutive tours to Iraq.

The Oscar-nominated film stars: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Jake McDorman, Cory Hardrict and Sammy Sheik and has a running time of 133 minutes.

The action alternates between Texas, U.S.A and Iraq throughout and even its opening scene(s) shifts between a desperately tense moment in which Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) must make a crucial split-second decision around his first possible kill, before, in a clever interchange of setting, we leave the Iraqi rooftop behind and switch to a young Chris, on his first hunt with his father, pulling the trigger of his hunting rifle.

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This action/war thriller (it’s not overly violent, it’s more what you don’t see that affects you) and biopic, reveals how, even as a boy, Chris is protective of those weaker than him (like younger brother, Jeff).

He grows into an unfulfilled, yet fiercely patriotic young man, who, when foreign forces begin to threaten his country around 1999-2000, enlists into the Navy’s S.E.A.L. division.

During his training, he meets Taya (Sienna Miller), who, reluctantly at first, falls in love with him and post-9/11 before Kyle flies to Iraq on his first tour, the two marry. With Taya (and later with their children), we glimpse the gentler side of this strong man.

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Though Kyle’s shooting exploits and dedication quickly earn him the uncomfortable title of ‘legend’, the evilness of war begins to take its toll as he has trouble re-adjusting whenever he’s State-side.

His primary targets are ‘The Butcher’ (Mida Hamada) and Syrian sniper Mustafa (Sammy Sheik), who seems hell-bent on taking Chris out.

As those around him (including Taya) begin to lose faith in his fight, Chris’ risky resolve strengthens, though, when he begins experiencing first-hand the devastating loss of war, he struggles to maintain his sense of normalcy.

The only question that remains as he embarks on his final tour is whether Chris can defeat his enemies before he loses everything – including himself.

What I really enjoyed about American Sniper was, aside from offering breakaway performances from Cooper and Miller, it accurately portrays not just the emotional (and physical) scarring war leaves on soldiers, but also the telling effect it has on their families and provides a rare cinematic look at the re-adjustment issues war veterans face, including Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

I watched it with an open mind – knowing only that it had been nominated for several awards, including the Oscar for ‘Best Achievement in Sound Editing’, which it won in a clear nod to the film’s beautiful music score – and enjoyed it right through.

If you like true-life war/action films like Saving Private Ryan or Captain Philips, I recommend American Sniper.

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[Date Written: 24/05/15]


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