Film Focus: American Sniper is a direct hit

American Sniper

Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle in American Sniper

American Sniper

It is always wise to approach American war films with caution. The heroic soldiers fighting the good fight against ‘evil’ with the star spangled banner draped around their shoulders, it is all a bit much. So a film where the protagonist is a Navy SEAL who kills 160 people in the Iraq War is not a great starting point. Yet for some reason it works.

Cast aside your political views and treat American Sniper as what it is;  a glorified ‘story’ of war inspired by real events, but loosely based upon them. If you do so, you are treated to an enjoyable cinematic experience. Get lost in the detail and question the rationale then you will start to pick holes in a film that in essence glorifies killing.

‘American Sniper’, directed by Clint Eastwood is the true story of US Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, (Bradley Cooper) who through four tours of duty in the Iraq War kills over 160 people, but saves countless American lives, earning the nickname ‘legend’ among his peers. Whether he is a ‘legend’ or indeed a hero, make up your own mind, but what Eastwood does well is express Kyle’s struggles off the battlefield; his lack of purpose after returning home from duty, the strained relationship with his wife and children and the harrowing impact of post traumatic stress disorder.

It is not all rosy for Cooper’s character and focusing directly on the character rather then delving into the war itself saves the director from nailing his political colours to the mast. It is a slow burner of a film and never quite is edge of your seat stuff, but truly is gripping as you get an insight, whether real or not, into the grim reality that is war. Alongside Cooper Sienna Miller’s portrayal as Kyle’s wife Taya is first-class, dispelling my initial fears that any serious role in an Oscar contender was well beyond her.

The film is nominated for six Oscars, including the coveted Best Picture Award and Cooper gets the nod for Best Actor, so it has found favour with the powers that be and rightly so. American Sniper is certainly worth a watch and you will get your money’s worth. Don’t overthink it though and please I beg you, don’t read about the real Chris Kyle and his exploits until after you see the movie!
    Four Stars

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