Based upon the best selling autobiography by Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, American sniper is an account of his tours of duty in Iraq and struggles with adjusting to life outside of the military.
It comes as no surprise that this film is based on Kyle’s own account of his life as the story it tells seems very one-sided. Having read of the accusations that his body count was so high because he systematically failed to make the distinction between combatants and civilians and that he was a borderline sociopath, this film seems beyond rose-tinted. It makes no attempt whatsoever to address these claims and we learn absolutely nothing about his killer or why he did what he did beyond a couple of lines of text saying that Kyle was killed by a “veteran he was trying to help”. Which happens off screen, no less. This serves only to undermine the credibility of the film and as such it never quite rings true; every Iraqi on screen is an armed combatant, there is no mention of collateral damage or civilian casualties at all and the moral ambiguity of the entire conflict is glaring in its absence. Taken at face value, American Sniper is an extremely polished and technically accomplished war film which is beautifully shot and solidly performed, although Bradley Cooper’s near robotic representation of Kyle as a man concerned solely with duty to his country is rather difficult to connect with.
Clint Eastwood’s consummate skill behind the camera ensures that as a flag-salutin’, fist-pumpin’ “U.S.A.! U.S.A.!” propaganda piece it works extremely well, but as a well-rounded drama or examination of the man and the Iraq conflict I found it more than a little wanting.