IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 132 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Chris Kyle grows up in Texas, where his father raises him under a strict moral code, insisting that he should: “be a sheepdog who protects others, not a sheep or a wolf.” Kyle works briefly as a rodeo cowboy until he sees television coverage of the 1998 US embassy attacks, and immediately enlists to become a Navy SEAL. He meets a girl named Taya Renae during an outing to a bar, and they marry, but then Chris is deployed to Iraq as a sniper after the September 11 attacks….
I think it’s fair to see that Clint Eastwood’s directorial record has been a little spotty of late, though he hasn’t made a wholly bad picture and one has to admire how the 84 year old filmmaker can keep churning them out. American Sniper sees Eastwood back exploring one of his favourite themes – the consequences of violence – and sees him entirely comfortable directing a war movie [lets forget Heartbreak Ridge] whereas at least two of the previous genres he’s dabbled in haven’t really suited him. American Sniper is based on the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History. With 255 kills, 160 of them officially confirmed by the Pentagon, Chris Kyle is the deadliest marksman in US military history. With his widow Taya Renae Kyle being heavily involved with the making of the film, it feels authentic for the most part and intelligently examines war, patriotism and duty in that cool, dispassionate manner one would expect from an Eastwood picture. Our ‘hero’ doesn’t see anything wrong with serving and dying for one’s country in what could be an unjust war, and at times I felt like screaming at him to ‘wake up’, but I still liked and respected the guy, though from what I gather the real Chris Kyle wasn’t much of a nice guy at all.
Much faster paced then most Eastwood pictures and devoid of the desaturated lighting that increasingly seems to be a feature of them, it’s packed with tense and exciting war skirmishes which are expertly handled by its director, someone who shows that shaking the camera about and cutting every second is not necessary to do this sort of stuff well. Jason Hall’s script only really lets itself down in the second half which brings in a rather unnecessary villain, an Iraqi sniper who likes to drill people to death, including a small child in one of several highly uncomfortable scenes. I would have also liked to have seen more after Kyle leaves the military and returns home, a section that feels rushed, though that may have slowed the pace a bit too much. The bitter irony of the final occurrence still hits hard. Bradley Cooper finally won me over in a tremendously detailed and assured performance that shows Kyle’s internal torment, while even Sienna Miller does pretty good as his wife. Eastwood is back on form in this often uncomfortable but riveting film.