A film in which we see how far patriotism, and military culture, can take one man seemingly willing to risk it all at the cost of quite a few lives.
Trigger Warning(s): Shooting of Children, 9/11 Imagery, and Dismembered Bodies
Review (with Spoilers) – Below
Characters & Story
Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is a Texas born and raised young man who dreamed of being a cowboy. However, one video of a threat to the nation leads him to joining the SEALs, and then 9/11 sets him on course for 4 tours. During said tours, he leaves it all behind. His family, his moral compass, but he maintains his sense of duty. Especially as the fight becomes less about peace and more about revenge. Leaving you to wonder if this legendary sniper, who seemingly develops PTSD, may ever fully return to that wannabe cowboy he once was, or if for each body he killed he will find nothing but paranoid notions and misery.
One thing I got to admit about this film is that it really proves that, despite the character and situation, Bradley Cooper may just be one of the few who has the talent to make you forget you are watching him as he performs. For, similar in a way to Tom Hanks, he has shown, thus far, the ability to be likable, hateable, and yet still be an interesting enough draw to make you want to see his film.
Now, speaking for American Sniper especially, it is weird to watch a man justify killing a kid, and yet not come to hate him but the pressure and situation he is put under. For with every scene we see Chris as a leader, a father, a brother, or a husband, a part of you wants to forgive ever kill, ever headshot, and even feel sorry for him when his mental state begins to deteriorate. Making it so Cooper, and the film, help you understand those with the complex message of supporting the troops, and yet not the war they fight in.
Perhaps the sole issue I can find with the film is that it doesn’t present those who Chris kills, or fights against, as anything but the enemy. Which bothers me for with all the Islam phobia which comes year in and year out, it makes it where, I feel, films like these near to give some voice to the other side. Like, take Camp X-Ray for example. In that film we see those accused of being a part of the Taliban, among other terrorist groups, get humanized and aren’t all treated as villains without any say in why they would pick up a gun.
Which I don’t say to sympathize with those willing to kill one another on either side, but more so because there is a cause and effect to everything. Something not seen when it comes to those in the film too often. For while there are those whose lives are threatened if they don’t assist the terrorist, at the same time there is this one boy in the film, one who picks up a rocket launcher, without coercion, and points it at an American automobile, and a part of you sort of understands why he would do it. For while Chris has his sights on him, ready to shoot, and is representing the freedom of Americans from terror, at the same time this little kid might have just lost his father and has, within sight, the nation responsible for it. Not the person, but those affiliated with them. And in a strange way, moments like those really make someone like me wonder if there may ever be a film made which presents things from the other side. One in which the American soldiers are the terrorist and not portrayed as the heroes who seek redemption, aren’t villains who could never be complicated, and etc. Though, considering who finances most films, I doubt we may ever see such a thing.
Overall: TV Viewing
Films like these leave me with mixed feelings. For while Cooper’s performance is excellent, and he crafts Chris Kyle so well that arguably he should be nominated for some of the major awards, I do find it hard, even as an American, to really just see him shoot and kill without question. For even with the understanding that if he didn’t it would mean American lives, with there being no perspective from the other side, I do feel like this becomes like a really well acted/ written “American FUCK YEAH!” type of movie. Like a realistic Rambo type film in which no matter how much death and destruction, you are left feeling the man you have watched go from boy to man is the hero. No matter how much, or whose, blood he has on his hands.
As for the TV Viewing label, the reason behind that is while Cooper is built up, his opposition remains nameless, and the film relies on 9/11 for any and all killed to be considered an enemy and their deaths justified. Add in no strong supporting characters, including Chris’ wife, and you are left with one strong performance; a bunch of unnamed, or hardly identifiable, people killed; and Chris’ military buddies who don’t create much sympathy or reason for attachment since they all have generic looks and backgrounds.