American Sniper – 1 out of 5
When I first saw the trailer for American Sniper, I was blown away. It was one of the most intense trailers I had ever seen. However, I ultimately ended up putting this one on the backburner because I had a hard time separating the art from the man this film was based on. After I found out that the sniper Chris Kyle had a love for lying, had some racist tendencies and even lied gleefully that he indiscriminately murdered looters during Hurricane Katrina, I decided that I would wait on watching this one. Recently, I decided to finally give it a chance because the film is so polarized among my peers and wanted to see if I could separate my bias from the feature. Heck, I was able to do it with Captain Phillips; surely I can do it with this one, right? Turns out, I couldn’t.
|One big miss (pun intended), Bradley Cooper's southern accent. It changes quite a bit.|
Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is just a good ole cowboy who loves his country and after terrorist attacks start to claim the lives of Americans, he decides it’s time to enlist and kick some ass. After joining with the SEALs, Kyle would go on to become one of the best snipers in the war but his love of fighting and his putting his patriotism before his wife and child starts to take its toll on his personal life. Matters are made even worse when a sniper by the name of Mustafa (Sammy Sheik) is out gunning for him in the war.
|In case Eastwood's film is too subtle for you, this is the bad guy.|
He literally has no depth to him beyond his country of origin.
From a filmmaking standpoint, American Sniper is a terrifically put together film. The visuals are fantastic and it has some incredible editing that really makes the plot flow amazingly well. The major problems I had with the film, though, are how empty and vacuous the entire thing feels and my inability to completely eliminate my own personal biases and watch the film on its own merits. While it’s always dangerous to say anything that can instantly be construed as “unpatriotic” and like I’m not supportive of the troops, I read too many things that poke holes in Kyle’s claims that were made in his book (and used as the basis for this film) and, to be honest, his boisterous claim of trying to act like he’s a real-life Frank Castle and stating he sniped looters during the hurricane feels absolutely insane to me. That’s not a person I want to idolize or seen portrayed as a hero.
|The movie Kyle feels like he gets occasionally disturbed by killing...|
The real life Kyle sounded like he got off on it. That's a bit scary.
Despite my bias, I will admit that I did find some moments of the film to be incredible tense and structured in a very amazing way. There are times where the character of Kyle is put in a difficult position where he’s essentially in a “no-win” sniper situation and director Clint Eastwood did a terrific job of making some very nerve-racking scenes. There are also some hints that this film is going to dive deep into the troubles that Kyle went through and the cost war has on a person. However, that’s pretty much all they were—just hints.
|Another big issue: The fact that production had to buy a plastic toy baby|
doll from the story that makes their infant look fake and (this is the scary part)
To boil it down, American Sniper feels more like jingoistic propaganda with no real depth to it rather than a dramatic tale. Kyle’s character barely develops as the story progresses and Eastwood does little to tackle the meaningful conversation of war, terrorism, PTSD, and death that this film is capable of creating. Every so often there is an attempt to examine these themes but they are done so at a terribly primitive level before being completely abandoned for a scene that involves Kyle proving he is the ultimate idea of masculinity and patriotism. Basically, this film felt like it was the bio-pic/war drama version of a popcorn action summer blockbuster and the performances within it are just barely at that same level. The worst part about all of it, American Sniper feels like it is actively doing everything it can to make sure Kyle is a real-life superhero rather than a war vet and a real human being with thoughts, feelings and hardships. Never does the film try to show any real vulnerability with him and, even when we get those hints I previously mentioned, any progress is halted when we see Kyle engaging in a dick measuring contest to prove what a man he is and how his love of this country is unparalleled.
|I really like Bradley Cooper but this one was a complete miss for me.|
(Pun not intended)
A part of me questioned whether or not I should even post this review for American Sniper because I had preconceived notions going into it but I’ve had that issue in the past with other films and sometimes have been proven wrong. While this review does have the potential for some backlash due to the fact American Sniper was pretty polarizing with audiences, I have to say that I was overwhelmingly unimpressed with how the story handled the character of Chris Kyle and found the whole film to be one of the most disappointing war dramas I’ve ever encountered. Perhaps making movies about a war that is still very much in the country’s collective recent memory isn’t the best idea because there is no way to create it without being one-dimensional and coming off like propaganda.