Movie Review: American Sniper

Movie Review:  American Sniper


Clint Eastwood’s work, both directing and acting, has been something I have long admired and enjoyed from Dirty Harry to the spaghetti Westerns and most of the other pictures since.  At the end of the day my all time favorite movie is still one in which he both acted and directed, The Outlaw Josey Wales.  In spite of his recent lapse into political partisan lunacy carrying on conversations with empty chairs in a public forum and such, I still like Eastwood’s work.  His latest directorial effort, American Sniper, is neither a real biopic nor documentary on the complex life of Texas bull rider turned Navy spec warrior Chris Kyle.  The personal life of Chief Petty Officer Kyle and his four tours in Iraq merely serves as the backdrop for the overarching theme of the film:  How a warrior loses his humanity and struggles to reclaim it.

Admittedly, I heard and read a lot of the brouhaha over this film, both glowing praise in favor and caustic criticism against it before deciding to view it.  I had to put all of that mass of other people’s opinion out of my mind before walking into the theater.  To my surprise this film was amazingly apolitical.  Aside from a couple of clips showing the US Embassy bombing in east Africa in the late 1990’s and the 9/11 World Trade Center attack, the history prior to the Iraq occupation was largely omitted.  Bradley Cooper plays the role of Kyle and delivers a convincing performance of a traditional Texas youth and aspiring rodeo star who visits a Navy recruiter and soon finds himself in desensitization lab at BUD/S training.  After becoming a full fledged SEAL, Kyle meets the woman he marries played by Sienna Miller.  Miller’s role as Taya Kyle, the traditional stay at home wife dealing with her active duty husband’s multiple deployments to a war zone, underscores the stress placed on career military marriages despite being brought closer with email and cell phone access.

Urban warfare of the sort well documented at Fallujah and Sadr City is accurately depicted and though it is well done, it pretty much resembles any other war movie.  Kyle’s mission to cover convoys and troops in the streets below from roof tops of a war torn city is well detailed and the gravity of his judgments, to shoot or hold fire, weigh heavily on his conscience.  As noted above, this story is about a warrior losing his humanity.  Any time one has to target a child, woman or someone other than a clearly identified armed lawful combatant, regardless of cause, part of the warrior’s soul dies.  That is the missing part of the warrior that had to be squelched at many a stressful moment that eventually balloons into the hell of PTSD months and years after the fact.  Eastwood made sure that the warrior’s quest to regain that lost part of his humanity was fairly described.

I believe Mr. Eastwood when he says this is an anti-war film.  There is no delving into the issues of Chris Kyle’s known and well publicized character failures as it stays very on message regarding the damage done to the warrior’s soul and his relationships with his comrades and family.  Kyle’s combat decorations speak for themselves.  In the end there are so many things that transcend religion and politics.

I rate this movie three out of five stars:  ***

American Sniper trailer