Sunday, February 1, 2015

American Sniper, a short-ish review

American Sniper

It's been over a month since "American Sniper" initially came out and it seems the chatter surrounding the film has finally calmed down. Clint Eastwood's film has drawn the ire of liberals while simultaneously becoming a rallying cry for the right. Well, my position on the film will satisfy neither party.

I don't think "American Sniper" is a dimwitted film that justifies the War in Iraq. I also do not think it's a masterpiece of filmmaking. "American Sniper" is a competently made film with some very tense war scenes that delves into the heart and mind of a soldier, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who is absolutely single-minded in his devotion to his country. Once he joins the Navy SEALs, he is their brother for life. He is absolutely committed to joining his fellow soldiers in combat, ultimately doing four separate tours of duty when all is said and done. But, those tours of duty comes at the cost of his family. Each tour is like a dagger in his wife's heart. Chris Kyle wound up becoming the deadliest sniper in American history, but that meant little to his wife, who just wanted her husband to come home and play with his kids.

Eastwood takes a very straight-forward approach to the material and it inevitably causes a bunch of problems, seeing as how the source material for "American Sniper" was actually written by Chris Kyle and adapted to the screen by Jason Hall who did everything he could to serve Kyle's story as faithfully as possible. So it just feels like we're missing a lot of nuance and complexity, as if we're not really being told the full story. The movie goes a little bit into Kyle's battle with PTSD and then, suddenly, pretends that it magically disappears towards the end of the film. And while I didn't expect the film to show how Chris Kyle died, the way it went about explaining Kyle's death felt weird, as if it's sugarcoating a heartbreaking story. Chris Kyle was killed by another former soldier who was also suffering from PTSD. By ignoring details such as that and taking a soft approach to Kyle's own battle with PTSD, "American Sniper" ultimately winds up feeling like irresponsible filmmaking. Eastwood treats Kyle like the war hero he was, but he fails to really drive home how soldiers such as Kyle were mentally affected when they were away from the battlefield.

By avoiding those key details, "American Sniper" ends up just being another average war film that does little to distinguish itself from other films of its genre. It may be making a buttload of money at the box office, but I can't help but feel that this film was a giant wasted opportunity.

Grade: C-

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