American Sniper… A film that has clearly been anticipated by many. Being the clever person I am, I went to a late night showing on Saturday night. I did so thinking that most people would be leaving the theater by that time. But on the screen for all the earlier times for American Sniper were the words: Sold Out. All around me people buying tickets not for Taken 3, but for American Sniper.
The movie chronicles the military exploits of “The Legend” Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) while also treating us to an inside look at his personal life with his wife and children.
This film is not The Hurt Locker or Black Hawk Down. If that’s the story you are looking for, look elsewhere. It is a thoughtful look at the life of a military service member not only while deployed and in the field, but also while on the battlefield of one’s own home. We see Chis Kyle go from proud Texas cowboy to a trained sniper who believes in being the protector and lives and works with unparalleled conviction.
The film, surpassing the 2 hour mark at times felt slow. There were moments where I caught myself asking, “So what?” because the ultimate goal and story arc were a bit vague. However, when telling the story of a man’s life over the course of several years, this feeling is to be expected. Clint Eastwood brought his unique story telling to the film in his directing, and anyone with a brain should know they can trust a military movie in the hands of Eastwood. Being a veteran myself, some small details in scenery and movements called back memories for me, which is a tribute to the creators of the film… Because soldiers are the worst critics of any military movie. I never felt like I was watching for mistakes or errors, but was drawn into the story instead. In addition, the lack of music throughout most of the film and the silence as the end credits rolled is a fascinating, albeit effective, creative choice. While a soundtrack is designed to create mood and atmosphere, American Sniper proved that when everything else is right, musical backing can be unnecessary or even distracting. I would give kudos for this dramatic choice. Sound in this form was used sparingly throughout the story-telling and it was a gamble that paid off in my opinion.
You can’t watch American Sniper without commenting on Bradley Cooper’s performance. The actor has a master’s degree in the fine arts, and the result is clear. Anyone who has ever seen a picture of Chis Kyle or watched an interview with him can tell you that Bradley Cooper truly embraced the role and played it to perfection. From the accent to the weight/muscle gain to the speech patterns… He was 100% Chris Kyle. It is a performance to be proud of and would easily win an Oscar in my book.
All that being said, American Sniper is an insightful reflection on the mental stresses our service men and women endure. Chris Kyle, while venerated by his peers (and even enemies), never appeared to be seeking glory. In fact, it seemed more characteristic of him to avoid it, as he believed in what he was doing and did the job because he saw that it simply needed to be done. He carried the weight of the world on his shoulders — not in the lives he saved, but in the lives he didn’t. The quiet pride and disarming humility portrayed stand in stark contrast to the volatile, trigger happy, and cocky portrayals of soldiers more commonly depicted in Hollywood. That alone placed American Sniper in a league of its own.
This film is a self aware creation, in that it shows, with great transparency, the toll war takes on those who are caught in it. There are some things in life that will follow you forever, some choices that cannot be unmade, and some pains that will always hurt because they are so deep. American Sniper shows the other side of the war. It shows that there is more than bullets flying and missions to accomplish. It unapologetically shows that real human beings are behind those guns and the cost is beyond what we can imagine.
At times, the “so what” feeling kicked at the back if my mind while watching this film. I came into with extremely high expectations, and upon leaving the theater, I wasn’t sure they were all met. I felt as if I was missing something. But as I drove home, I realized the movie exceeded my expectations. As I drove, I realized how heavy I felt… The emotional weight of the film had followed me home from the theater. It reminds me of how important it is to support out soldiers and veterans and how important it is to raise awareness for mental health in the military.
Go see this movie. I give it a solid 8/10. And if it strikes home with you, for whatever reason, take action and do something with that feeling.