Based on the 2012 autobiography of the same name, American Sniper is the true story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) and his four tours of Iraq. Known as “The Legend” in military circles and “The Devil of Ramadi” by the Iraqi insurgents, Kyle is credited with 160 confirmed sniper kills during his time in the military.
In the first few opening moments of the film, viewers are taken to Iraq and are right there with Kyle as he makes his first sniper kill in the war. It’s not an easy one to watch, nor is it an easy task for the SEAL, showing that no matter how expertly trained the snipers are, they still have a compassionate side and taking another human life is far from trivial. After that pivotal scene, we meet a younger version of Kyle and follow his journey from boyhood to adult, witnessing his decision to enlist after 9/11, and meeting and marrying his wife, Taya (Sienna Miller).
American Sniper was recently nominated for six Oscar Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor. While the film itself has some truly great moments, it is also very flawed. The time the movie spends in Iraq becomes repetitious and there aren’t enough suspenseful moments like in the opening scene. Viewers also don’t get much emotion from the character until near the end of the movie – something that would have greatly added to the character development throughout and made for a more cohesive storyline that didn’t focus so much on battle scenes in Iraq.
And while anyone can appreciate the incredible sacrifices Chris Kyle made to his country, it is very sad to watch as he chooses duty over his family time and time again. The struggles between Chris and his wife that are portrayed in the movie seem very real and bring to the surface a perspective from a military wife’s point of view that would have made for an interesting exploration into how the family feels, but was instead left floating on the surface and taking a back burner to the activity in Iraq.
It’s said that Bradley Cooper packed on 40 lbs. of muscle and became a proficient sharpshooter to prepare for his portrayal of Chris Kyle and he does an effective job with his role. Cooper has grown immensely as an actor over the past few years, but it’s not likely that he will take home an Oscar this year for his performance. It was good, but it wasn’t great and to win a prestigious honor like Best Actor, he truly needed to be great.
Even with its flaws, American Sniper is a great homage to the men and women who risk their lives every day for this country. It’s an emotionally compelling story,doesn’t shy away from the horrors of war and leaves any moral debates about the subject for you to discuss at home. Take tissues with you though, you’re going to need them for the end.