American Sniper is a well executed war movie that gives you exactly what you want, without ever feeling particularly fresh. It’s Clint Eastwood’s most energetic work as a director and Bradley Cooper’s turn as Chris Kyle feels authentic.
American Sniper is the most visually dynamic film of Eastwood’s career and he shoots the on-screen action with the fervour of a man half his age. Eastwood has long had a point and shoot mentality when it comes to filmmaking but he’s delivered a piece that has great kinetic momentum and tension.
Chris Kyle’s memoir American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History became an international bestseller and the film was already in development by star-producer Bradley Cooper when Kyle was killed on a shooting range by Eddie Ray Routh in 2013. Eastwood’s film balances the focus between Kyle’s four tours of duty in Iraq and his family life with wife Tanya (Sienna Miller).
Cooper does well at getting across Kyle’s need to keep returning to the battlefield and he’s not afraid to delve deep into the man’s darker recesses. Cooper’s beefed-up body also helps to get across Kyle’s bear-like physical frame – it’s a good performance on all fronts.
Kyle was a controversial figure, with many disputing some of the content of his memoir, while others laud him as a true American hero. Your stance on this may depend on how you see American Sniper – is it a pro-war movie that portrays the US foreign policy as a way of protecting the west from the evils of Al-Qaeda or an anti-war movie that shows how warfare can impact those on the frontline? The reality is that it’s a little of both and this ‘all thing to all men’ mentality means that American Sniper lacks edge.
Budgeted at $59 million, American Sniper grossed $350 million at the U.S. box office and an impressive $547.2 million worldwide following its release in 2014.