On the Silver Screen – American Sniper

Jan 15, 2015 | Posted by in Movies
American Sniper

Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper tells the true story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s 4 tours of duty during the war on terror.

First thing to note is that Bradley Cooper gives a first rate performance here. Over the past few years he’s really been proving his worth as a versatile leading man in various different projects that challenge his ability in really interesting ways. He plays Chris as a sort of quietly tortured hero who has an innate desire to serve his country and help those around him. He mounts up psychological scars as he goes but obsessively reenlists as he feels that it’s his responsibility to do so.

Cooper manages to convey a wide range of emotions throughout the film and injects a lot of humanity to the character. Given that we see Kyle picking off young children from a distance through his sniper scope it would have been easy for an audience to dislike him but Bradley Cooper’s emotionally honest performance manages to prevent that from happening. The scenes where he is portraying Kyle’s PTSD and general difficulty readjusting to his normal life are fantastic, Bradley Cooper absolutely carries this film more than capably.

American SniperI’m a lot less enthusiastic about Sienna Miller who seems to be back to playing the weepy wife character. It’s a shame that she’s so underused here as she is a very good actress but her role is so underwritten that she really fails to impress. More could have been made of their relationship and the strain that the distance and constant threat of death places on it but her scenes boil down to little more that exasperated phone calls or brief disagreements over Kyle’s decision to go back for more tours of duty.

Having the film cover Kyle’s entire military career makes it feel a little unfocussed. I felt that the story was rapidly jumping through the events without any time spent exploring the impact that they might have had. As a story it hits all the right beats through his training, relationship and marriage, career, conflict with his wife and his having to readjust to civilian life but none of these manage to be the real heart of the film.

My biggest issue is that the film isn’t actually about anything beyond a factual retelling of Chris Kyle’s career which would have been better served by a documentary chronicling this. As an audience we aren’t given any insight into Chris and how he feels about the War he’s fighting. There are shades of him feeling distanced from his life and his family but it’s not explored in any massive level of detail.

Similarly there is an attempt to give him a nemesis known as “The Butcher” who kind of comes and goes throughout the film without any real sense of development. At one point he is active then he’s dealt with and there’s no real personal impact for Chris. There’s also an underdeveloped rivarly with a really skilled sniper on the other side but it never quite manages to resonate in the way that Clint Eastwood probably intended.

There are many aspects of Chris Kyle’s life that would have made the perfect hook for this film. I would have been more interested in seeing a binary narrative focusing on the struggles from being away from his wife and kids from the perspectives of Chris and his family. There is lots of emotional storytelling to be mined from all this and it would have given the film the perfect character driven hook. It would have really sold how difficult the War on terror was for the soldiers involved.

  • 5.5/10
    American Sniper - 5.5/10


No disrespect to the man this is based on of course because there’s no doubt that he did a lot of things that saved a lot of his fellow soldiers but this collection of factually presented recreations of his career really doesn’t do him justice.

Bradley Cooper’s performance is fantastic and he brings a lot of emotional depth to Chris Kyle. He handles the PTSD and difficulty readjusting to civilian life perfectly as well as seeming like a competent soldier with lots of experience.

Less impressive is Sienna Miller who returns to the role of the weepy wife character. She doesn’t have much to do in this film and her character’s relationship to Chris feels underdeveloped. It’s one of the consequences of the factual style the film uses.

The narrative is completely unfocused and jumps from event to event without any real exploration of the implications of them be it on a personal level or otherwise. I never got a sense of who Chris Kyle is or the reasons behind him choosing to enlist. There’s no context given to his decisions or how he feels about the War in general. Some attempts to give him defined enemies to go after are so clumsily handled they feel extraneous.

User Review
0 (0 votes)