Bradley Cooper delivers one of his best performances to date in Clint Eastwood’s tense and powerful American Sniper. The film examines a host of moral issues surrounding a no mercy soldier, adding an extra dimension to the average war movie, but slips on a political and ethical front.
The film is based on the autobiography of former Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (Cooper), the US military’s deadliest sniper with a record of 160 confirmed kills over the six-year span in which he served four deployments in Iraq.
The film opens with the first of numerous conundrums that Kyle faces throughout the process. Perched on top of a building on the first of his tours, he has his lens fixed on a small child, deliberating whether to put a bullet through him as he may or may not be carrying a bomb.
American Sniper intertwines between Kyle’s upbringing, consisting of his early ventures with his father shooting animals. We also view his life back at home before and in between deployment in which he first encounters Taya (Sienna Miller).
She plays an important role in the movie, imposing another key moral dilemma to Kyle as it becomes increasingly difficult to continue leaving her and their two children and potentially never coming home. In reflection, it’s just as problematic adjusting to life at home without fighting due to his willingness and desire to serve his country.
Cooper and Miller deliver what arguably are career best performances. Cooper, who visibly beefed up for the role, nails the no mercy yet damaged persona of Kyle alongside Miller who definitely lacks screen time despite her emotional presence.
It’s hard to escape Eastwood’s patriotic, right wing exploits throughout the movie however – as much could be determined purely from the title. American Sniper can’t help but scream “American war hero” time and again which surely will act as a motive behind it’s recent Best Picture nomination at the Academy Awards.
Steven Spielberg was originally involved in the project and it’s no secret that he was keen to add more focus to the Iraqi sniper who almost becomes Kyle’s rival in order to view both sides of the story. Would this make for a more interesting watch?
American Sniper won’t win Best Picture at the Academy Awards. It’s a gripping and intimate interpretation of the memoirs of Kyle but Eastwood romanticises the American war hero image to an uncomfortable degree.