American Sniper: Bulls-eye Portrayal


Clint Eastwood’s new drama, American Sniper, is a well-received and critically-acclaimed movie. There was so much hype behind it that I was expecting nothing short of MIND-BLOWING. Unfortunately, that wasn’t the case.

American Sniper is about the real life story of Chris Kyle, legendary US Navy SEAL sniper who’s dubbed as being the most lethal one in history.

It doesn’t get more “real life” than this. It’s one of the most genuine portrayals of war I’ve seen. So genuine, in fact, that it’s deprived of the wonder that makes movies fun to watch.

If you’ve read my past reviews then you should know that for me, one of the most important aspects of a movie is its plot and development. If a movie doesn’t have a strong plot, it better compensate with the action or the humor or the world building. But in American Sniper, you get a lot of the same thing – sand, driving, shoot-outs. The only recognizable through line the movie follows is the gradual change of Chris’ psyche as he goes through his numerous tours to Afghanistan. The movie is about PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder), in short.

US Navy SEAL Sniper, Chris Kyle.

The movie takes up most of its time building this trauma. As a viewer, you’d probably get a feel of where things are going after the first half hour. So for the next hour or so, you see Kyle going back and forth from Afghanistan and his home while his mental state slowly deteriorates…just like my interest in the movie.

Now I know that’s a shallow way of looking at it because the film has a lot of complexities and undertones when it comes to warfare and psychosis, but still, the protagonist’s main struggle was his trauma and how it affected his role as a father and husband. And frankly, PTSD is a subject we’ve seen tackled a number of times before and has gotten overly familiar.

But don’t get me wrong, it was still a good movie. PTSD may be a worn out topic, but it was so very well presented by Bradley Cooper. Cooper played Kyle’s inner torture authentically (even when his Texan accent wasn’t). His pain, fear and rage were hard-hitting. Some of the more interesting parts of the movie are when Kyle tries to assimilate back into a normal civilian life. You feel a pressure build up inside him, but you also see him keep it in and control it, albeit difficulty. His take on the renowned sniper even hints on some psychopathy. Cooper turns in one of his strongest and most intricate performances yet.

Bradley Cooper at his finest. (He even bulks up for the part!)

The director aimed for a sense of dread that comes from the realism of a battlefield, so the action was grounded and not intended to be flashy. Characters arbitrarily die, bodies drop without second thought, the pace can change out of nowhere, and no content is too graphic. At times it helps put you in that same fearful place that Chris Kyle and/or his wife were. Chris Kyle and his team weren’t in any way invincible and the action truthfully captures that sentiment.

But at the same time, the muted war scenes can be a little repetitive and honestly, they DID get a bit boring. Sometimes scenes got incomprehensible because of the sheer chaos. Also, there was no overarching aim when going to Afghanistan, just snippets of objectives for every tour. Kyle’s 4 tours became a highlight reel of sorts for his major career accomplishments. But half of the time, I couldn’t invest myself in his efforts because his objectives change every half hour.

One great thing about the action though is the cool sniper moments. I feel like everyone who’s watched this is going to use a sniper rifle in their next FPS game. There’s just something so bad ass about Chris Kyle taking people out from the shadows with one long distance shot!

This movie is not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. American Sniper is a deep, visceral, character piece. Some are going to find it fascinating, especially people who already know of the legendary Chris Kyle and Bradley Cooper does his best to make it worth your while. But some will undoubtedly get bored from its hackneyed subject matter and its repetitive pace. It’s like a well-acted documentary, but it’s a documentary nonetheless.


* First seen on The Philippine Online Chronicles!

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