Chris Kyle remains a polarizing figure in American history, even after his death. On the one hand, he is currently ranked as the most lethal sniper in our country’s history and no doubt saved countless American lives during his multiple tours. But on the other hand, many consider him a bigoted man who refused to see both sides of a complex war in Iraq; it was entirely black and white to him and America was without-a-doubt in the right. It doesn’t take more than a quick Google search to see this dichotomy in the public’s opinion. And don’t even get me started on the whole Jesse Ventura thing…
In any case, that’s not the story being told in American Sniper.
This is not a look at war and how there are various shades of grey to good and evil. This is not a look at country and religion and the perception that neither are infallible. No, this is a movie about one man’s point-of-view in a modern war and how that war changed him forever. It’s about not being able to ever completely turn the soldier side of yourself off even when you are back at home and safe. Truly, the question being asked here is what would killing over a hundred people do to you as a person, not whether you were justified in those killings in the first place.
Bradley Cooper plays Kyle in this film from Clint Eastwood, and while it’s clear that both men wanted to honor and respect Mr. Kyle for his bravery, this is not a particularly political film. Eastwood’s subtle and unassuming style works wonders in that regard and I especially like his choice of not showing Kyle’s death, but rather the actual footage of his funeral. Those images are powerful, even if you didn’t like the man. And while I am partial to his character in Silver Linings Playbook, this may be Cooper’s best role to date. His reluctance and uneasiness with some of the impossible choices he’s forced to make really elevate this movie. Also, for what it’s worth, his Texas accent never once bothered me and that’s saying quite a lot.
So, if you remove some of the more controversial areas of a man and choose to only see war as he did, does that make for a compelling movie? In this case, I’d say so, but I still prefer Eastwood’s Letters from Iwo Jima as a more complex and complete war film. If you haven’t seen that, I’d definitely recommend checking it out.
On a side note, can soldiers actually call home during missions? It repeatedly happened here and every time it took me out of the movie.