Friday, January 23

REVIEW: American Sniper

Directed by Clint Eastwood
2014 War Biography 
2 hours 12 minutes
From Warner Brothers and
Village Roadshow
Bradley Cooper
Sienna Miller

(After having some computer issues and getting a week behind and a new computer, I am back.  Have you missed me?  I've missed you.  We're starting with a review on American Sniper which is what I was attempting to do a week ago.  Let's just get right into it.)
I was looking forward to this film chiefly because I had read a few pieces on the real Chris Kyle both before and after he was murdered and picked up various news stories on the tube.  I couldn't have been happier to hear that one of my favorite directors and an actor I am pretty taken with were attached to the project.  There I was on the day it opened in these parts, happy in my seat for the first matinee.
In case you aren't up to snuff (pardon the pun) on the details, Kyle is the most lethal sniper in U.S. military history at 160 kills.  Known as The Legend, this patriotic Texas boy went on four tours of duty to Iraq.  He won a trunk full of medals and the Iraqi insurgents put out a bounty on him.  After he was honorably discharged in 2009, he wrote a bio about his exploits and his re-entry into civilian life, which became a bestseller called, what else, American Sniper.  It was in his selling the book around the country that I first became aware of him.
The film toggles between his military tours and his life with a loving and patient wife and two kids back home.  To me it seemed like most of the war scenes found him on his belly looking through the scope of his rifle.  There was some suspense on a few occasions in whether he'd pull the trigger or not although I think you can guess the answer most of the time. 
For me, of course, not the greatest advocate of war films, I preferred the home scenes with husband and wife struggling to figure out what is most important and what is not.  All parties rarely agree on the pecking order of God, home and country.  I found one scene heartfelt when Kyle and his wife are talking long-distance... she is just leaving a hospital and he is dashing from a skirmish and he drops his cell as she hears nothing but gunfire.  Her reaction, of course, was at the heart of the scene.
How could there be any doubt that Dirty Harry would want to direct this particular film?  For every antihero cop and badass cowboy he has played, Chris Kyle got to blow 'em away for real.  Of course, this is why the film is racking in gazillions of dollars, so far the most financially-successful film of the nine that are up for Oscar's best picture award.  And while I liked American Sniper, I assure you others in that category are far more worthy.
Of course it is this similar bloodlust that is getting so many men out to the theaters.  Imagine.  A 2-hour film about America's most lethal sniper?  That'd put it right up there with porn, I daresay.  It makes me quasi-queasy to think of the American taste for guns and killing and violence.  I'll bet some of you folks will see this film more than once.  I gotta ponder if Dirty Harry thinks this is what we need right now.  Isn't the news of the day enough for now?
Just about everything you can read about the movie adds a line somewhere that asks you to consider all the lives Chris Kyle saved.  Perhaps, but it gets a snicker from me because other than the line itself, there's little evidence of it in the film.  I mean do you really think this is a movie about saved lives?  Far from it.  It's about killing.
I highly suspect that the Chris Kyle portrayed in the film or even the one I saw on news shows trumpeting his book is quite as nice as they have us believe.  How could he be?  Of course, this tampering with the (suspected) truth isn't bandied about quite as much as it was for Selma, which galls me.
It also galls me that Bradley Cooper, an actor I sincerely like and whose films I am well-acquainted with, received an Oscar nomination for best actor.  This meant that David Oyelowo, far superior as MLK in Selma, and even Jake Gyllenhaal, in his arguably best job of acting in Nightcrawler, were ignored.  Cooper did fine work but it was by no means an exceptional performance. 
The best acting came from Sienna Miller as Mrs. Kyle.  It was a measured and satisfying performance.  The remainder of the large cast appeared in little more than one or two scenes.
The real Chris Kyle
I think Eastwood did a good job of directing here.  He usually does.  Obviously the material is something he is well-aware of.  Of course, it's always weird as hell that the Academy honored the film with a best picture nod while not doing the same for Eastwood.  How did they think their best picture got that way?  (Of course with nine picture nominees and only five directors, someone has to be left off... which is a good time to again say what a moronic idea it is to nominate nine films.  Hey Academy, learn to manage things a bit better and perhaps consider some integrity.)
With the way things are going, Warner Bros and Village Roadshow can afford to gift their employees with a goodie bag to show some appreciation.  I'm thinking a G.I. Joe, a rifle, some bullets, a helmet, an NRA membership, a can or two of Spam.
Next posting:
The Directors


  1. Gotta agree with you on this one. Good for what it was, period. I did like it.
    AND, welcome back! Good to have my longest and best bud return to the blogosphere. Now life is back to abnormal.

  2. Yippee!!! He's baaackk!
    I don't know how to quit you. :)

  3. Ah comments from two of my favorite people. Nice to be back, too.