REVIEW: American Sniper

Christopher Kyle is the most lethal sniper in US military history.

American Sniper has taken as much criticism as it has plaudits. The film starring Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle is set to become the biggest selling war movie in history. However it hasn’t happened without controversy and I’m not talking about the fake baby. In the United States it has resulted in an increase in anti-Islamist behaviour on social networking sites.

The film is based on Kyle’s autobiography. Bradley Cooper (Chris Kyle) is terrific – delivering a truly gripping performance. His transformation from roles such as The Hangover to American Sniper is proof of his versatility as an actor. The high intensity action sequences are very dramatic and well shot (no pun intended). Kyle’s story is both interesting and shocking. In Iraq he faces a threat to his life in the form of an enemy sniper because of his growing reputation as the “Devil of Ramadi”.

Initially to be directed by Steven Spielberg the film was passed on to Clint Eastwood who is no stranger to war movies having directed Flags of our Fathers. Spielberg wanted to direct a film showing Kyle’s fight to keep his fellow SEALs alive whilst his Iraqi equivalent did similar. Spielberg wanted to present a balanced interpretation of their Iraq war using Kyle’s source material. Instead Eastwood’s film is one sided – showing purely Kyle’s story. The narration can therefore be interpreted as unreliable.

Do you believe that this is what life is like in a war zone? An American death is treated much differently from an Iraqi death in the film. One scene in particular troubled me in this aspect but I won’t expand for fear of plot spoiling.

Bradley Cooper has played down the film’s political elements. “We are sheepdog”. The film portrays Kyle as an over keen American hero. Hero or villain? The audience can make up their own mind. But it’s quite clear from the ending which way the film swings. Many people don’t go to a film to think about politics or worry about balance. I think it’s important to reflect on what you have watched and recall exactly what the film wanted to you to experience because it does affect your outlook on certain topics.

American Sniper is not Eastwood’s best film nor even his best war film. It’s worthy of the debate that we are having because of its unrelenting power. It is an intense, raw and gripping story and if you can see past the Call of Duty and flag waving scenes there are elements of a strong and encapsulating war film.

3/5

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