American Sniper movie review: There is no large picture
Star Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller
Directed: Clint Eastwood
“GOD, country, family, right?” Chris Kyle tells a fellow SEAL in American Sniper. That pretty much defines Clint Eastwood’s work, where heroes are honour-bound men who see the world in clear rights and wrongs. It’s easy to see why he would like the real-life story of Kyle, an American sniper who came to be called “The Legend” for the maximum kills in US military history. Yes, somebody is keeping a count.
Without getting into the politics of this, Eastwood tells a straight-from-the-hip story of this sniper over four tours of war-torn Iraq. Among those Kyle (Cooper) shoots and kills, and sees getting shot, killed and drilled into, are women and children. Eastwood shoots Kyle close and personal, and Iraq distantly and impersonally. In The Hurt Locker territory, but without the dilemmas of its characters which lifted that particular film, Eastwood’s is a war made of small chapters and small vengeances. There is no larger picture here, just a SEAL unit and how it sees and finds its place in this part of the world.
The film, based on a book co-written by Kyle himself, will make you flinch at both the relentless fighting and the unilateral view the Americans in its midst have of it. Words like “savages” are routinely thrown about as Kyle and buddies manoeuver their Hummers through streets crawling with “dangerous Iraqis”. Making this fight more personal is Kyle’s own counterpart on the other side, brilliant marksman Mustafa, who once participated in the Olympics. And the man they all call ‘The Butcher’. Two battle scenes particularly stand out, one involving a dog and the other a sandstorm.
In contrast, the scenes between Kyle and his persistent wife Taya (Miller) are grating. Her protestations about why he should be home rather than volunteering to go back again and again seem perfunctory.
The same holds true for Cooper too. Commanding in the battle scenes, he is more unconvincing when insisting on being the soldier who won’t see any other side but his.
In real life, Kyle, after surviving Iraq, died at the hands of a veteran back home in Texas. That’s life for you.