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American Sniper


American Sniper (2014) – Rated R

Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.”

Wow. This film, and the character of Chris Kyle (in both senses of the word), seem to have split extreme left and right. I am certainly of two minds about this film.

American Sniper is an extremely well-made film. It begins with an incredibly suspenseful scene and leaves us in that suspense as we flashback to Kyle’s early life. The movie also ends on several perfect notes – a fade to black with some print on the screen, some real footage, no music over the end credits. Absolutely the most satisfying beginning and ending to a movie that I have seen in a long time.

Bradley Cooper’s transformation into Chris Kyle is simply amazing. He bulked up quite a bit which I expected for his role as a Navy SEAL. He’s left behind many of his mannerisms, or Cooperisms if you will. I thought the bulking was in general but when you see pictures of the real Kyle, they did a great job of making Cooper look like him.

Cooper’s performance is spot on as well. If he wins the Oscar, it will be deserved. He is ably backed up by Sienna Miller as his wife. Sammy Sheik is good as the enigmatic Mustafa, particularly as he has very little screentime for the role. The other actors playing soldiers do their jobs but don’t stand out particularly (which works well as this is a story about Kyle).

So American Sniper is a perfect film then? Not exactly.

American Sniper is shamelessly jingoistic. We are shown footage of the Tanzanian and Kenyan bombings of 1998 and one of the towers falling on 9/11. The other side is shown torturing civilians with a drill and executing them.

The movie is based on Kyle’s autobiography and, as with the jingoism, shamelessly promotes him to the exclusion of all others, sometimes embarrassingly so. His spotter serves no actual purpose in the film, other than perhaps bodyguard. We are told repeatedly that Kyle got 150 kills but are shown only a few of them and of those few, at least two are quite fabricated.

HISTORY SPOILER:  If you’ve read the autobiography then you know that Mustafa’s fate is quite different in real life than in the movie. The opening scene is also fairly embellished.

There are also plenty of details that are bizarrely wrong. In one scene, Kyle is clearly holding a baby doll and not a baby. Huh? Kyle was not even close to 30 when he went through training. I’m not sure why this was even a thing.

American Sniper is still a very good and riveting film but I don’t feel it is Best Picture material. It certainly isn’t innovative like, for example, The Grand Budapest Hotel.

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