- RatedM18 /GenreAction, Biography
As of late, Hollywood war films have been coming up through the ranks, what with 'The Hurt Locker' bagging numerous awards and 'Green Zone' garnering critical acclaim – and now you have 'American Sniper', the latest political representative in the running for the Oscars.
Hailed by audiences for its historically accurate depictions of the Iraq War, and crucified for its one-man standpoint, the Clint Eastwood biopic pays homage to the deadliest sniper in US history, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper).
Bradley Cooper plays Chris Kyle, who set a record as America's most lethal marksman, with 255 probable kills | Photo: Golden Village Pictures
Based on his autobiography of the same title, Eastwood stayed true to Kyle's unflagging, flag-waving beliefs – yet his black-and-white portrayal might have been just a little too close for comfort for some.
Kyle has 160 confirmed kills under his belt, and a mouth that shoots off the most thoughtless statements in his memoir – apparently, killing hundreds of people is his idea of "fun" – and Eastwood might have made a mistake painting him into a tortured war hero instead of his bloodthirsty self.
LAUDING A SLAYER
A minute or two into the movie, you are scanning the rubble-strewn grounds of Iraq through Kyle's eyes, and sniffing out targets with his pair of handy binoculars. He fixes in on a scarfed Iraqi woman and child wandering through the dilapidated streets, finger hovering over the rifle trigger.
Chris Kyle (right, played by Bradley Cooper) and his comrade poised on all fours at the snipers' hide-out, as they await the command to shoot their targets | Photo: Golden Village Pictures
Does he or does he not? You watch with bated breath as a grenade is passed between the duo.
And that's what this movie likes to do: where it lacks in meaningful dialogue about the larger political issues that surrounded the war, it makes up for it in the battlefield with unrivalled tension and suspense.
Anticipate an army of action-packed scenes in 'American Sniper', with Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) fearlessly taking the lead in combat | Photo: Golden Village Pictures
In flashbacks to his childhood, Kyle is seen hunting in the fields with his father, and later, given a lecture on survival instincts. Some time after, the audience gets to see that he signs on with the US Navy Seal shortly after the 9/11 attacks. In between his ruthless training, Kyle meets Taya (Sienna Miller), whom he woos and weds.
Sparks fly between Kyle and Taya, and they take the plunge into a heartbreaking, long-distance relationship | Photo: Golden Village Pictures
One-and-a-half war tours later – during which he becomes a killer – Kyle and his comrades face enemies in the form of two individuals: "The Butcher", Abu Musab al-Zarqawi (Mido Hamada), and "Mustafa" (Sammy Sheik). But Kyle also swiftly becomes the most wanted man in Iraq. This doesn't sit too well with his wife, who raises two of their children by herself (plastic babies alert).
Taya (Sienna Miller) plays Chris Kyle's wife | Photo: Golden Village Pictures
Apart from the couple's repetitious arguments, where Taya pleads for her husband to "be human again", the focus remains on the cutthroat house intrusions and bloodied streets, with not much of a breather in between.
Eastwood feeds audiences with plenty of war scenes, banking on the idea of dangerous, deceitful Iraqis and warranted murder, leaving no room for any anti-war debate and sympathy – not for the Iraqis who suffered just as much as the American forces, not for the innocents killed in crossfire.
'American Sniper' is largely devoid of emotional scenes like this one, where Kyle visits injured comrade Biggles (Jake McDorman) at the hospital | Photo: Golden Village Pictures
You wonder about the fascinating but thoroughly disturbing character that is Kyle and the post-traumatic stress disorder he would have suffered after 10 years at war, but there is barely any material and discussion brought to the table.
'American Sniper' stops short of being a poignant, worthwhile watch and is regrettably relegated into something much shallower.