American Sniper (15)

Clint Eastwood directs Bradley Cooper in the visceral true story of the US military’s most lethal sniper.

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) was merely a Texan man with aspirations of becoming a cowboy. But as America continued to be the victim of terrorist activity Kyle realised that his true calling in life was to serve his country.

So he joined the Navy SEALs and became a sniper. Whilst training for duty he met a strong-willed woman named Taya (Sienna Miller) and despite her best efforts to avoid getting involved with a military man, they fall in love and get married.

Not long after the wedding Kyle and the other members of his team are called up for their first tour of Iraq. Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend.

During his first tour, Kyle is forced to decide whether to shoot a young boy as he runs toward a convoy of soldiers with what appears to be a grenade. As the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan progress and the tours add up, the decisions become even more complex and the purpose of the violence less clear.

Kyle’s sign is a crusader’s cross. He displays a skull very similar to that of the Punisher comic-book character on the side of his Humvee. His counterpart, his foremost enemy, is a sniper named Mustafa who takes videos of his kills and sells them on the street.

It becomes unclear what the purpose of the wars is. Kyle’s incredible ability at killing never solves anything. Then all is revealed Kyle is fighting for his fellow soldiers and for America.

But back home with his wife and children after four tours of duty, Chris finds that he can’t leave the war behind. The reality of the war compared to urban life is too much for him to bear.

Chris Kyle was the deadliest sniper in US military history, responsible for 160 confirmed kills during four tours of duty. Insurgents in Iraq called him the Devil of Ramadi, a monster in the shadows to be hated and feared. Comrades and supporters saw him as an American Hercules, a talismanic presence in the “war on terror”.

The way Eastwood has directed this movie coupled with the outstanding performances by Cooper and the rest of the cast creates a heart-wrenching and deeply accurate portrayal of the external and internal battles our service men and women face. Not to mention the even greater sacrifices made by their families and loved ones back home.

Miller gives her best performance of her career. In Foxcatcher she was a meek little wallflower, but this time around she’s gutsy and adds a raw element to her delivery.

The movie is relentlessly violent and disturbing but honours the life of the late Chris Kyle in a very admirable way. It doesn’t show him as an invincible legend, but instead as a man with a heart and soul that are clearly broken due to his sacrifice for his country.

Condemned as jingoistic propaganda by some and hailed as a tribute to American fighting heroes by others, this Oscar-nominated movie has generated its fair share of controversy.

But American Sniper is about so much more than one man’s heroism in the midst of war. It’s about the high cost of that war on those involved—and it asks that we too feel and see that cost. You see every wound and hear every gunshot with realistic velocity. There’s no glossy Hollywood sheen in sight.

American Sniper stands to be one of the best movies of the year.

By Ruth Walker
★★★★★

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