American Sniper directed by Clint Eastwood is a film with a strong performance at its forefront, from Bradley Cooper but unfortunately is a film with not much else. American Sniper ultimately fails to deliver anything of real substance and leaves you disconnected, frustrated and a little bored.
Bradley Cooper is the strongest point in American Sniper, delivering a solid and consistent performance. Cooper brings real compassion to the role of Chris Kyle and does a good job in highlighting the effects of warfare on even the most hardened of individuals, he really does bring a level of poignancy to it all and I enjoyed what Cooper overall did in the film, but it’s the rest of the film that lets him down, almost every other aspect fails to support or heighten his performance and soon not even Bradley Coopers efforts could make the film an enjoyable watch.
The biggest issue for American Sniper is the noticeable lack of supporting characters. Sienna Miller who plays the struggling wife of Chris Kyle may be the only other actor/character who is given something to do (albeit not much). Chris Kyles wife should be someone we sympathise with and want to learn more about how she is dealing with having her husband leave for a dangerous warzone, instead she is relegated to very few scenes where in which she adds nothing to the development of her or her husband and becomes a flat and uninteresting character, it became really frustrating after a while to have what would seem like an integral character to the film be wasted so blatantly.
The same can be said for the rest of the characters in the film. There is not one other character in this film that is memorable or developed significantly. Chris Kyle’s brother is barely in the film and even when he is given what seems like some important character development, disappears, never to be heard or seen of again, the men in his squad, his Mother and Father, his children etc. No one becomes a real person in this film; no one becomes interesting or noteworthy. Every single character that isn’t Chris Kyle fades into the background and is quickly forgotten about.
What also let down American Sniper are the plot and the structuring of it. The film jumps back and forth, mainly between his time serving in Iraq and his home life with his wife and children. The moving back and forth between these two integral points in his life is handled so strangely, it never adequately highlights the passing of time and the multitude of tours in which Kyle goes on never feel different or that a significant amount of time has passed, they all just meld together into one big mess.
It’s Kyles home life that presents some of the most compelling moments in the film, seeing him deal with being back in America, struggling with PTSD, trying to care for his wife and kids were some of the most interesting parts for me, unfortunately these times are so far and few between. Mostly the film spends its time with Kyle in Iraq; these moments quickly became bland and a little ridiculous. The efforts to create antagonists for Kyle to hunt and kill were silly most of the time and the efforts to make them look so comically bad to the audience just left me rolling my eyes and wishing for the film to focus on anything else. The film just constantly bored me with these segments and what perhaps makes them even more egregious is how it deals with these sensitive subjects so tastelessly. Having what almost felt like a highlight reel of him killing faceless bad guys just left me uncomfortable and bemused as to what the film was doing.
What also left me uncomfortable with American Sniper, during and after, is how the film takes certain liberties with the source material and the facts. Not wanting to get to deep into it because some things are murky when the truth is to be considered. American Sniper is a film that has never sat well with me, from the first time I saw the trailer and the tag line they were running with “The most lethal sniper in US history”, to what kind of message the film was perhaps exuding, American Sniper never felt right to me and it’s one that I don’t think deserves the type of acclaim that it is receiving during this award season, I personally would prefer to not see this film on such a platform, especially when there are far more deserving films that do.
American Sniper is a film that I would not recommend, not only is the intent behind the film a little dubious for me but also when looking at it as a film, it frankly just isn’t that good, and at a time when there are a lot more well-made and more compelling films out there to see, my overall feeling would be to go see some of them.