Review: American Sniper

 

Clint Eastwood directs the film. Jason Hall wrote the screenplay, based on the book American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen. The results are harrowing and direct. Eastwood tells the story primarily from the sniper's point of view. We see Kyle's amazing focus on the job; we see him struggling to reconnect with his wife and children between his four tours of duty.

Bradley Cooper added 40 pounds of mostly muscle to his frame and employed an Odessa, Texas-based drawl to realistically portray the marksman. He performance is outstanding, one of the actor's best. Sienna Miller plays Taya Kyle, the devoted, frustrated wife and mother. American Sniper captured my interest and touched my heart. I went home eager to learn more about Chris Kyle. What I found was confirmation of what I had seen, along with some controversy.

It turns out that some of Kyle's stories about his adventures stateside between tours were called into question. He stated he was hired by the Blackwater security firm to shoot criminals from the roof of the Superdome following Hurricane Katrina. He stated he killed two carjackers and was let off by the Texas state police without being charged. Former wrestler and Minnesota governor Jesse Ventura won a $1.8 million defamation suit over Kyle's claim that he beat up Ventura during a bar fight.

I refer to these stories because Kyle chose to put them in his book. If they are indeed untrue (and given the courtroom results, it's especially hard to argue about the Ventura tale), they indicate that Kyle was not content simply being a husband and father, but that he felt the need to continue being perceived as larger than life.

Eastwood and Hall's decision to skip the non-battle stories was probably wise. Rather than walking in muddy water, they stayed with the verified tale, indicating Kyle's problem's acclimating to home life through Cooper's distant behavior and his focus on helping soldiers suffering from Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. As for his own possible PTSD, aiding others is often an effective way to help yourself.

There is some bullshit in the movie. The enemy forces have a sniper many consider the equal of Kyle. The film includes a long-distance battle between the two that didn't happen. However, Kyle apparently made a shot as stunning as one depicted late in the film.

There's one more thing about Chris Kyle's life. Many of you already know it. Some of you will read it over the closing frames of the film. I learned it that way and went home determined to read the details of the terribly sad statement, but I only found reiterations of the same fact. It appears that others decided that nothing positive would be served by putting the tragedy under a microscope.

Bottom line: Chris Kyle saved many lives by being very good at killing people. Clint Eastwood offers a powerful low-key portrait of the man, accented by a non-obtrusive score, that leaves it up to you whether to judge Kyle or simply to recognize him as a member of the family that did a very difficult job.

0
0
0
0
0

Ed Johnson-Ott has been NUVO's lead film critic for more than 20 years.