It is a universal fact that war movies have no trouble finding their way to the front-lines of the Oscar nominations. They are the crowd favorites, as they talk about the perils of war and connect with us at a human level. American Sniper, based on the real life story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), does a decent job at recreating the legend of the man, but is shrouded by an inconsistent plot and a one-tracked storyline.
The film manages to engage you right from the start. The American Marines are looking for insurgents among the ruins of a post – 9/11 Iraq. And watching over them from a vantage point is Chris Kyle – on his first tour to Iraq, away from his pregnant wife. Here, he sees a kid running towards the Marines with a grenade in his hand. He now must decide if it is wise to kill a kid. This is where we go into flashback mode to witness Kyle’s all-American lifestyle, beginning with his first buck hunting experience, his father’s sermon on integrity, a rodeo showdown, all the way to a cheating girlfriend. He then decides he wants to be of service to his country and joins the Navy SEALs. Some intense and clichéd training montages later, our boy is a buffed-up, grizzled sniper, newly married and assigned to a mission in Iraq.
Remember when he was going to shoot the boy? Yes, we are back to that scene, and he kills him, including his mother. Fortunately for us, we aren’t starved for such scenes, as there are way too many of these death shots from various angles where our sniper is perched. Clearly, director Clint Eastwood‘s agenda is to keep us staring at the screen long enough to ignore the fact that the movie is actually crumbling under its own weight.
Now this isn’t a bad movie, as much as a half-baked one. Late Chris Kyle deserves all the accolades for his tremendous service to his country and his is a story that definitely deserves to be told. But it wouldn’t have hurt to portray the plight of the Iraqi people for a change. When the insurgents are called “savages” over and over again, you can’t help but notice a Republican mind-set at play. The filmmakers have taken all the liberty to justify the American military’s actions as being right. Eventually, the movie unravels as a hollow tale, with no depth whatsoever.
While the film fails in its execution, American Sniper stands tall thanks to its seasoned leads. Bradley Cooper is at his career-defining best as Chris Kyle and embodies the character both physically and mentally. Sienna Miller as his wife Taya is also consistent in her role, transitioning from a vivacious single woman to a mother-of-two harried by her husband’s constant absence. The rest of the cast play second fiddle to our hero, and that includes the terror-inducing insurgents. The film would have benefited heavily by keeping the story slightly more grounded and by toning down the patriotism.
Why should you watch this film?
Watch the film for an earnest performance by Bradley Cooper. The actor is in top form as Chris Kyle and offers a lot of depth. It has enough edge-of-the-seat moments, coupled with a stellar soundtrack and POV shots. But honestly, this film would have been better off as a documentary rather than a feature-length film where we are exposed to civilians being butchered and murder being glorified.
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