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.
I’ll do us both a favor and start this review off by assuming that you know all about The Interview‘s hacking scandal. I’ll also add that I’m glad Sony ultimately decided to release the film (albeit in a unique way) and that it’s kind of exciting to (legally) be able to watch a film this big from my house day and date with its theatrical release.
Now, with that out of the way, I’ll cut to the chase: This is not a good movie.
I had heard that test audiences hadn’t been kind to it, but I enjoyed Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg’s first effort at directing, This is the End, and in general, I like Rogen and James Franco as actors, so I figured I’d still give it a shot.
The plot, such as it is, revolves around Franco as a talk show host who craves celebrity gossip and big, juicy scoops. So, when he and his producer, played by Rogen, unexpectedly find themselves in a position to interview Kim Jong-un (who is a big fan of their show), he jumps at the idea. The CIA, however, decides to use the opportunity to assassinate the North Korean leader. Hi-jinks ensue.
One of the problems I have with The Interview is that it relies on too many strange, awkward setups for jokes that never really pay off later on. Does “honey potting” really need to be a recurring gag? Or how about hearing a Katy Perry song over and over again only to have it be used in a more literal way during the film’s climax? Is that funny or is it just lazy writing? It’s as if they’re saying, “Hey, remember when we said that thing earlier? Well, we’re referencing it now! Aren’t we clever?”
Still, as bad as the paper-thin plot is, it’s not even the worst thing about this movie; that would be Mr. Franco. He’s so over-the-top and ridiculous that you can’t believe this is someone who has been nominated for an Oscar. Every note he hits is false and he really tested my patience with his obnoxious behavior. I’m not sure if that’s due to the way his character was written or if it’s just him improvising, but whatever it is, it’s absolutely terrible. Ironically, Randall Park as Kim Jong-un made me laugh the most. Read into that what you will.
I know many of you will probably see this movie simply because of the controversy surrounding it, but you’ll most likely walk away disappointed. If you want a better example of the kind of film this one wants to be, or if you are trying to be patriotic or something, then rewatch Team America: World Police. The puppets give much better performances.