You know those stories where you might not really understand who are the good guys and who are the bad guys? In which the lead character is a possibly a hero, but also a human being not without problems. That is the story of Chris Kyle, American Sniper.
I went into this film knowing a ton of fuss is being made about it – from all sides. And I won’t lie, points of this film can make it a very hard movie to watch at times. It’s the story of a man with formidable military qualities, doing something completely out of the ordinary to most of us in that he spent three years in the war doing things the vast majority of us could never really possibly imagine doing. It describes the kind of irresolvable moral dilemma undergone by a sniper in the war, and left to imagine what kind of consequences it could have on a human being to spend those years with only one ‘job’ to do and that job is killing people whether it be men, women or children if they are making a situation threatening to your fellow soldiers.
But Chris Kyle was not someone who returned from the war with all his problems settled with a visit to the VA psychiatrist. The problems were not simply being afraid of sudden noises: for one thing, he drank, to name another, he had been arrested several times mostly for assault. He said he went to New Orleans during Katrina and he shot those who plundered the abandoned houses. He said he had killed two who wanted to steal his pickup. These stories and many more are in the autobiography of Kyle, that inspired this story. Even the way Kyle managed at some point to straighten his life helping veterans in trouble as he was a piece of history; also the complicated life of Eddie Routh, the guy who killed him, is all a piece of said history.
Putting all my political thoughts aside regarding the “what if’s” of Chris Kyle..it’s clear he truly believed in what he was doing was the proper and right thing at the time. The point comes across to us by the fact he kept wanting to go back as he thought he could do more there than here, even though he kept leaving his family. It also speaks volumes during the scene where he runs into his younger brother “Jeff Kyle” (Keir O’Donnell) on the tarmac, Chris coming in for another tour, yet his brother just wanting at all costs, to get the hell out of dodge. The fact that we were dragged into a war against a country that never even attacked us as we all found out later..is not the story here..and wondering if those “what if’s” could have changed everything that happened is something we will never know as we can’t change the facts here. The problem is not that Clint Eastwood made a film of “military propaganda”, as some say because he is a Republican & was a staunch supporter of Bush and the war; on the other hand the answer is also not simply that Clint Eastwood has just told a story. This is not even that the film isn’t always faithful to the real story, not that American Sniper should be a documentary, but take the story of Chris Kyle and tell it like it is, flaws and all, is just another idea. If we just stop and look at the movie as it is ~ a well-done film by Eastwood, though not by far his finest work.
Standouts here are really Bradley Cooper who embodies Chris Kyle completely down to that fact that, yes, he physically fits the role, like Will Smith in Ali, and brings some layers of complexity to an emotional depiction of a veteran and his what his life and family life can entail. Sienna Miller plays Chris’s wife, “Taya”, while not a bad performance, started to somewhat annoy me when it seemed all we heard from her was “You’ve changed” or ” I want my husband back” coming off in what could be deemed whiney when let’s just be real here, you do know what you’re getting into when you marry a Navy Seal. There is also a decent supporting cast, taking note for me is Luke Grimes as “Marc Lee” as Kyle’s most notable combat partner during some tough scenes, Cory Hardrict as “D/Dandridge”, Eric Laden “Squirrel/Case” and Jake McDorman as “Biggles” to name just a few.
There are the parts where the movie lacks direction. We all know Chris Kyle lied and made up a boatload of crazy stories – truth be told, the only one that really irks me is how he said he donated all the money from his book, but yet in actuality kept a huge portion of it. That one is a pisser..and yes.. we’ve all lied and made up stories, but for most of us, not to the extent that Chris did. But did anyone stop to think for a moment what all those killings actually might have done to his psyche? I shouldn’t even say ‘might have’ as unless your a complete socio/psychopath, having to kill that many people would have to affect anyone. But how most likely he was truly messed up in the head with major PTSD is barely even brought up here. And the fact that he was shot by someone who CLEARLY was carrying loads of PTSD luggage, yet it’s reduced to one small title screen at the end of the film. Me personally, I would have liked to have seen more of that story.
I also have a bit of a problem with the way his ‘rivalry’ is shown with “Mustafa” (Sammy Sheik) is shown. This guy was an Olympic Gold Medalist-turned sniper, though Syrian, not Iraqi, and while the most human moments of him are when he is with his family or in his Olympic photos, we see nothing else except the hunt/cat & mouse game these two play with each other. His slo-mo death is also done a bit on the cheesy side for what purpose, I’m not sure. Yet the closing scenes of the film are also very powerful, and I don’t care who you are, you will be moved by it.
The film to me was a well made movie that shows the horror of war and what it does to people. Or can do. While I might think personally that Chris Kyle is more of a hero for what he did when he came back from war and helped other veterans, I do like it when a film actually makes you think or feel something that you can only imagine otherwise. And lastly, a huge point here, if you can’t separate the political from this and what it all entails and look at it from the viewpoint of ‘is it a good movie or not’ that not-withstanding what you may or may not feel about it personally, then your best bet is probably just not to see it. Though I think you will be missing something by doing so.
(See grading scale)