Monday, 16 March 2015

American Sniper (2014)

American Sniper (2014) PosterSnipe, Snipe, Baby

Director: Clint Eastwood
Running Time: 132 Minutes
Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner,

Once a towering figure of cinema in front of the cameras, Clint Eastwood has made the transition to primarily direct over the years. He has proven himself as talented with directing, crafting acclaimed films such as Mystic River and Unforgiven, making it all the more surprising how American Sniper turned out.

Based on the real-life memoir, Chris Kyle (Cooper) is a US Navy SEAL known as America's deadliest sniper. The film follows him on four tours of Iraq, and his struggles to leave the war behind once back home.

Eastwood's direction can be summed up with as bland and problematic. The former is evident throughout, as scenes which should bring excitement, or some kind of punch, are left feeling limp and lifeless. The latter is apparent regularly, such as Eastwood's heavy handed use of the Twin Towers footage, followed by a focus on Coopers reaction. But that's far from the only notable moment plagued with problems.

Take one scene, for instance. Kyle is on the phone to his wife, but the call is cut short, due to a surprise attack on his convoy. The scene keeps cutting back to her horrified face, as she listens on the other end, but there's no point in doing this. The decision to do this would be understandable if there was some follow up, like the stress of hearing that leading to complications with her unborn baby, or using it as an example in talking to Chris about not returning to the war. There's no consequences or mentions to this moment, as Eastwood amateurishly demolishes the tension, all for us to needlessly look at a shocked face.

Jason Hall's script fails to dig into Kyle's character and his addiction to the war zone, attempting to make up for it by declaring how America's the greatest country. Thank goodness for Bradley Cooper, as the actor steps up to give a compelling performance, adding substance where the script fails to.


The dialogue is laughable, containing the old gem "When you're here, you're not really here". What's questionable is the handling of the films few female characters. One gets caught cheating, leading to subtlety being thrown out the window, as she shouts about it being done for attention. Taya, Kyle's wife, doesn't fare much better, with her development going as far as pregnancy, marriage and being disregarded by her husband.

Early on, a flashback has Chris Kyle's father recounting his view of the world, by separating human beings into three categories. Wolves, which represent those who wish to do harm, Sheep, those who get harmed, and the Sheep Dogs, those who protect the Sheep from the Wolves. This is an accurate summation of the the films perceptions, as the Sheep represents American citizens, the Sheep Dogs are the representation for the US Military. And the Wolves? You guessed it, the residents of Iraq.

This analogy is used as an attempt to justify the US Military as being able to do no wrong, and almost every Iraq citizen having hatred towards the American Military, while being referred to as "animals". Never once does Eastwood attempt to deter from this black and white viewpoint, failing to bring forth the idea these people act out of fear, due to these heavily armed units forcing their way into their country and their homes. Instead, we're just given scenes of children aiming weapons at US Military, with little context for their trail of thought. There is only one example of Iraq residents who don't act in such a hostile way, and their fates involves dismemberment, being shot, and murdered with a drill.

By shying away from the real Chris Kyle, the man who took pleasure from killing Iraq citizens, Clint Eastwood has missed an opportunity. What could have been a compelling tale that asks whether such acts are right in a war zone, a film that doesn't shy away in the portrayal of its lead, is instead a monotonously directed film which holds troublesome messages. The end result is problematic, offering little more than a needless scene of Sienna Miller in lingerie.

3 comments:

  1. "Never once does Eastwood attempt to deter from this black and white viewpoint, failing to bring forth the idea these people act out of fear"

    Why would Eastwood do this? This is a story telling the viewpoint of the Iraq War from one, single man not a film encompassing the entire Iraq War, he isn't going to concern himself with the motivations the Iraqi people.

    Mind you that doesn't exempt the film from such criticism, and I certainly agree that the film has questionable politics (clearly we're both left wingers) and I'd agree that Chris Kyle personality wasn't fully fleshed out, but I did feel the film was well made.

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    1. Hooray, a comment :)

      I just felt it wouldn't be asking too much if even one character suggested that maybe the people were acting out of fear, rather than the idea that the people were just "animals".

      Let's just agree that this film would be more fun if it starred Rocket Raccoon.

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