Chris Kyle is known as the most lethal sniper in American military history, amassing 160 confirmed kills out of a possible 255. American Sniper, the movie based on the book that he wrote tells his story, from humble beginnings growing up in Texas learning to shoot from his dad, to joining the Navy Seals, honing his talent behind a sniper riffle. The film is helmed by Clint Eastwood whose skill behind a lens I think is underrated. He truly knows how to direct both people and action. He’s not flashy in his direction. There are no signature pans, no tricky camera angles or anything that suggests Eastwood puts style above substance in a film such as this. The action is real and visceral and doesn’t shy away from all the horrific images that war has to offer.
Portrayed wonderfully by Bradley Cooper, who has quietly become one of the most versatile and dependable actors around, earns his oscar nomination as Chris Kyle, a man who’s all about God and Country. Cooper’s evolution to a young man going nowhere in life to a hard-nosed, battle hardened soldier feels real and not rushed. The film itself plays well the toll and trauma war takes on a soldier both mentally and physically. Lawn mowers starting up or the sound of lug nuts being tightened in a car garage causes the slightest jumps, reminding the audience that even when a soldier walks away from the battle field he never really leaves it. Despite the toll of war, Kyle seems thrown by normality once home which is reminiscent of Jeremy Renner’s character in The Hurt Locker, where the quiet calm of home feels off putting. It’s as if Kyle can barely function unless there’s bullets going over his head and explosions rumbling off in the distance. Sienna Miller as his wife is the emotional cornerstone of the film, providing fear, anxiety and sensitivity that Cooper’s Kyle feels but doesn’t show. She’s his rock when he’s home and his reason to return when away.
The film overall is one of the best made and well acted war movies to come along in a long time. I can’t speak for the man himself or all the controversies and stories surrounding him. The film certainly presents him in a certain light which some think is far from who he really was. Who and what he was I don’t know. I know if you simply watch the movie and take it in for what it is, and cast aside whatever talk about the man the movie is about, you’ll find a modern masterpiece of filmmaking on Eastwood’s part that tells a story one soldier’s duty to his country.