DIRECTOR: Clint Eastwood LEAD CAST: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Kyle Gallner, Sam Jaeger, Jake McDorman, and Cory Hardrict STORY: Chris Kyle SCREENWRITER: Jason Hall PRODUCERS: Clint Eastwood, Andrew Lazar, Bradley Cooper, Peter Morgan PRODUCTION DESIGN: James J. Murakami, Charisse Cardenas FILM EDITORS: Joel Cox, Gary D. Roach MUSIC: Joseph DeBeasi, Clint Eastwood GENRE: Action, War, Biography CINEMATOGRAPHER: Tom Stern PRODUCTION COMPANIES: Mad Chance Productions, 22nd & Indiana Pictures, Malpaso Productions DISTRIBUTOR: Warner Bros. Pictures LOCATION: United States RUNNING TIME: 134 mins.
Technical Assessment: 4
Moral Assessment: 3
CINEMA Rating: for viewers 14 and above
The film essays the real life of US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper)—from the circumstances that led him to the service to his becoming one of the most lethal snipers not just in the Navy SEAL but in the entire American history. His skill has brought him to tours of duty in Iraq to protect his comrades who are fighting in the war. His pinpoint accuracy not only saves countless lives but also makes him a prime target of insurgents. Despite grave danger, and much to his wife’s dismay, Kyle goes to Iraq four times thinking that he’s doing his country a great service for he believes in the war they are in. But the ravage of war leaves Kyle wounded for the rest of his life. Coming back home, he has to face a different war, a different crusade brought about by his decision to serve his country above himself.
American Sniper hits the emotions of the audience to the core. The strong characterization of the central subject of the story makes the film both fascinating and compelling. Cooper really fits the role and his performance delivers even the slightest emotional and psychological nuance of the character. Given the complexities of the situation the film depicts, it is able to keep things simple without being simplistic by focusing on the gamut of emotions and psychological torture a soldier has to go through just to defend a war for the sake of his country. The film sticks to realism as far as possible, making the setting and situations distinct and realistic. The story is presented in a linear, chronological fashion, making it easier to follow. This is a good directorial decision since the story itself is complicated enough. However, there was little attention given to the other characters in the story which could have turned into interesting subplots. The political issues of the war are also left on the sidelights which could have been a good anchor for further debate. But then again, American Sniper is a good watch in its entirety with its competent direction, realistic setting, and sincere characterization. Given Kyle’s clarity of purpose – to protect his comrades in the war, it would seem easier to dismiss the other moral issues present in American Sniper. But then again, the visuals of a rather dark and violent world will always be problematic. However, given the insightful workmanship of the film, it is quite clear that Kyle’s own moral dilemma is as problematic as the film’s moral stance. With a story based on the perspective of the Americans, the audience can see clearly whose ideology is at play here. The Moslems in the Middle East are once again put in the worst light that furthers stereotypical image of them being terrorists and extremists. It may really take a while before such semiological issue is reconciled in mainstream cinema. Good thing, the film is highly focused on the central character’s emotional and psychological struggles, so it is clearly seen that killing, although in the context of war and self-preservation and self-defense, will always be problematic, if not traumatic. In war, one loses oneself in the process—a noble act if done with a noble purpose. Kyle as the central character in American Sniper is deemed a hero for he left himself behind for a purpose greater than himself—a selfless sacrifice. But then, given the political shade of the war he was in, one cannot help but ask whether Kyle’s sacrifice is really worth it or not. Audiences must still be warned of the desensitizing effect of the visuals of violence in the film. CINEMA finds the film suitable only for viewers 14-years-old and above, given the scenes that contain emotional stress, sex, and violence.