Cary, NC — American Sniper, directed by Clint Eastwood, tells the incredible true story of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, who became the most decorated sniper in U.S. history during his many tours in Iraq. Despite a great lead performance by Bradley Cooper and some tense, well put together action sequences, American Sniper spends too much time on said action and not enough time focusing on its truly heroic subject.
Cooper Delivers Another Great Performance
Bradley Cooper has been on a bit of a roll lately. He’s earned three acting Oscar nominations in three years, including one for his performance here. At first, I couldn’t really buy Cooper in the role–his accent felt a little forced and he didn’t seem to have that ‘good ol’ boy’ Texas attitude that the role required.
I’m from Texas, I know those guys, and I found myself really rejecting his portrayal. But, as the film went on, I began to notice just how good Cooper is in the movie. The script rarely hints at the problems Kyle suffered with PTSD (more on that later), but Cooper manages to find numerous moments where he brings so much more than what is on the page.
In the end, I found his performance to be incredibly detailed and heartfelt, as well as a great tribute to the real Kyle.
The Rest of the Cast, Not So Much…
Unfortunately, Cooper is the only one who really gets to shine in the film. Sienna Miller, who plays his wife, doesn’t really get much to do. Most of her scenes are spent being mad at Kyle for not being home. Of course, the situation is much more complicated than that, but the film doesn’t seem that interested in exploring that aspect of the characters’ lives. It doesn’t help that Miller and Cooper don’t have much chemistry together, either.
Too Much Focus On Action, Not Enough On Character
Now, the most frustrating aspect of American Sniper that really keeps this film from being great is that it focuses on the least interesting part of Kyle’s story–his time spent in Iraq. Don’t get me wrong, as I said earlier, these sequences are well constructed by director Eastwood.
Of course it’s necessary to see what exactly Kyle went through and how he accomplished his legendary status; however, the time he spent overseas caused Kyle to suffer from PTSD as it does with so many other soldiers. And this is where the movie really loses me.
Once he got home for good, the real Kyle went out of his way to help his fellow veterans who also suffered from the trauma they went through while at war, both physically and mentally. But the film barely glosses over this fact and, instead, rushes to squeeze it in at the very end of the movie.
Personally, I find this to be the most heroic part of Kyle’s story, and I feel the film would have benefited greatly by having this part of the film as the focus while showing us his time in Iraq instead, perhaps, in flashbacks. American Sniper chooses to be more of an action film than a character study. This is a real shame, especially because it is such a great story to tell.
American Sniper: Not Worth the Trip to the Theater
I’m really torn by American Sniper. It is not a terrible movie by any means. Bradley Cooper delivers another great performance as the titled character, and director Eastwood shows that he can deliver exciting action sequences with the best of them. But that focus on action over character ultimately proves that American Sniper is a mixed bag.
I realize that I might be in the minority on this one, but I have to call ‘em like I see ‘em. Skip American Sniper.