As I sit on my bed staring at my laptop trying to write this review, I’ve realized that there is no way that I could do this movie justice. Sir Francis Bacon once said that “by far the best proof is experience,” and that is exactly what I recommend.
‘American Sniper’ is an experience from start to finish; artfully crafted, beautifully acted and pulls so hard on every emotion that you find yourself not knowing how to feel by the end. Based off of the best selling memoir by Navy Seal Chris Kyle, Clint Eastwood delivers his best work yet; inspiring and moving audiences of all backgrounds.
‘American Sniper’ is one of the best movie of 2014 and is destined to leave its mark on cinematic history as one of the most authentic works of art ever brought to the big screen.
Detailing the life of United States Navy Seal Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), ‘American Sniper’ brings us to the front lines of the war in Iraq, immersing us in the perils faced by the men and women in uniform. The film shows us the early years of Chris Kyle’s life, depicting a child who stands up for what is right. We then get to see his foray into being a cowboy but eventually the armed forces begin to call his name.
After witnessing the 1998 terrorist attacks on the U.S. embassy in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania on TV, Chris Kyle decided to enlist in the military. He would join the Navy Seals and become known as the most lethal sniper in U.S. history. Over the course of four tours in Iraq, he would rack up 160 confirmed kills out of a probable 255.
The film depicts Kyle juggling two parts of his life that he feels dedicated to, his family and his country. Throughout the film, his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and his children are put to the back in favor of his dedication to the Seals. He feels compelled to keep going back because he has unfinished business with an insurgent sniper called Mustafa (Sammy Sheik). This sniper is responsible for the deaths of many soldiers and eludes Kyle and his men several times throughout the film.
His desire to serve his country puts the family under extreme stress each time he leaves. This is evident in the many arguments that he has with his wife over him not staying with his family. Taya also has a hard time dealing with the PTSD that Kyle is in denial about for much of the film. He definitely comes back as a changed man but he doesn’t see it at first. He is much more closed off than when they first met and refuses to talk to Taya so she can understand what he is experiencing and why he continues to serve.
After four tours, Chris Kyle kills Mustafa from a distance of more than a mile away, giving away his unit’s position. A huge firefight ensues and the only thing that saves them is the sandstorm that conceals them long enough to be rescued. Kyle ends up being wounded and almost left behind.
The film is overflowing with similar moments that leave you on the edge of your seat. My nails have suffered dearly at the expense of watching this movie. Another nail biting scene is when his unit is delivering money to a man in exchange for information about a high profile target nicknamed ‘The Butcher’ (Mido Hamada). The unit comes under sniper fire from Mustafa, causing many to die. Bradley Cooper’s character gets onto a rooftop in order to take out Mustafa and The Butcher but is pinned down by sniper fire. His character is forced to sit on the roof top and listen whilst The Butcher drills holes into the legs and head of this man’s son. The images of this little boy being brutally killed is horrific and it isn’t the first death of a child in the film.
Fortunately, we get to avoid the death of another child later on. Kyle kills an insurgent who is attempting to fire an RPG at workers building a wall. After he is killed, a little boy runs over the fallen man and attempts to pick up the rocket launcher. He whispers to himself over and over for the boy not to pick it up, all the while he has his finger on the trigger, poised to add another statistic to his list. Thankfully the boy drops the weapon and runs away. These tense moments are plentiful and really gives you a sense of real peril throughout the movie watching experience.
The key word when describing this movie is “experience”. You get to experience the life of an extremely patriotic man who put his life on the line countless times to not only guarantee the freedom of his country but of his friends and family. We get to experience what it is like to be in a war (obviously it pales in comparison to actually being there but they do an excellent job of making it feel very authentic), what its like to leave the military and be plagued with demons, and experience the long road to recovery.
His long road to recovery comes in the form of helping other veterans. Whether they have been severely wounded or have PTSD, he uses his reputation to inspire those around him. Unfortunately, in his mission to help others, Chris Kyle and his friend Chad Littlefield were murdered at a firing range by a fellow veteran. He was 38.
They don’t show his death in the film which I think was a very good decision. I think that it would have been very disrespectful to his family and his memory had they shown this. They end the movie by telling you this and then the credits roll. The credits are truly the most emotional part of this movie because they are accompanied by video of his funeral, memorial and procession. There wasn’t a dry eye in the theater.
What really added to the experience of the movie was what happened in the audience when the credits started. Not a single person left that theater until the last picture was shown of him and his wife. Its not the same thing as when everyone stays to see the extra clips of a Marvel movie because you could have heard a pin drop in this theater, it was so quiet. Even when this last picture was shown and everyone gets up to leave, not a word was said by anyone. Everyone left without saying a word and there was an air of mourning in the theater. We witnessed a truly remarkable man live and die in the only way he knew how – helping and protecting others.
I didn’t leave that theater as the same person I did when I went in. That is how powerful this film is. Even as I write this, I have tears in my eyes. We have all at some point felt that the United States is a shell of its former self and that we wish we could live anywhere else but this movie makes you fill with patriotism. This movie has made me want to do better and be better.
To combine acting, directing, sound, imagery, words and make you feel something so deeply that you feel like it has changed who you are; this is what makes a film truly great. After the announcement that the film has been nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Actor for Bradley Cooper and Best Picture, this movie has proven to me that it is not only deserving of these nominations but it also deserves to win them.
Bradley Cooper gives the best performance of his career in this role and has once again astounded me with his abilities. Not only is the resemblance uncanny, he is able to show someone having PTSD in a subtle way but also show it at its greatest extent. One of the truly great moments of his performance is just him sitting in a chair, blankly staring at a TV whilst he hears gunfire in his head. He is experiencing all of these events over again while at a birthday party. At one point during the party, he snaps and nearly kills a dog who is playing with his son. He stops himself after his wife intervenes and begins a remarkable road to recovery.
The other great player in the film is of course its director, Clint Eastwood. After continually delivering brilliant and inspiring work each time, Eastwood has by far outdone himself. I’ve seen nearly every movie that he has directed and this is without a doubt, his best film yet. It is a tragedy that he was not nominated for Best Director at the Oscars and I hope that people view this snub in the same way they viewed Ben Affleck’s snub a couple years ago.
It was truly a privilege to witness such a masterpiece and I only hope that you get to feel the same thing I felt when watching this film which is, changed.
I give ‘American Sniper’ 5 out of 5 Film Reels.
‘American Sniper’ was released on December 25, 2015 and stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller. The film was directed by Clint Eastwood.