American Sniper ‘2014’

By: Mitch Burns

Courtesy of Warner Brothers.
Photo Courtesy of Warner Brothers

Directed By: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Max Charles, Luke Grimes

6 Oscar Nominations:

  • Best Picture
  • Best Actor in a leading role, Bradley Cooper
  • Film Editing
  • Sound Editing
  • Sound Mixing
  • Writing, Adapted Screenplay

It’s time to go down the line, and review the films that The Academy Awards have deemed “Best Picture Worthy”. As to not show any form of bias, I will be going alphabetically, starting with American Sniper.

American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle, based on the autobiography by Kyle called American Sniper: The Autobiography of the most lethal sniper in U.S. History. The movie opens with Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) lying on a rooftop, eye down the barrel, watching over his men like a hawk, When a little Iraqi boy sneaks out into the street. Chris keeps an eye on the boy, and is horrified when he see the boy pull out a grenade. Chris Kyle is forced to take him out, and then, take out the boys mother. It’s a bold way to begin a film, pushing us into a scene so daring and controversial to begin.

The director, Clint Eastwood, quickly loses any credibility, as he juxtaposes that opening scene with a terrible flashback. An extremely young Chris Kyle learns to hunt with his father, Ben Reed, playing one of the movies first of many cliché’s. His father is your stereotypical, rough, no-love dad, who tries to teach his son how to be a man.

Flash forward to Kyle, a little older, doesn’t know what he wants to do with his life until he sees new coverage of the 1998 U.S. Embassy bombings and decides to join the army. He rises through the ranks, is accepted into Navy SEAL training, and eventually becomes a fully fledged U.S. Navy SEAL.

Chris Kyle meets a girl in a bar, Taya Ranae (Sienna Miller), who soon becomes his wife. Kyle is sent for his first tour of Iraq shortly after the attacks on the Twin Towers on September 11th.

Chris Kyle’s story is pretty remarkable, it is a story worth knowing, unfortunately director Clint Eastwood handles it’s transition to the big screen in such a ham-fisted manner, I can’t recommend anyone watch it. All the blame is rightfully shifted to Eastwood and newcomer writer Jason Hall, who delivers a laughable script.

Each scene in American Sniper as if it’s been rushed through so quickly that the movie is almost sloppy. Mix in some really rough editing, and it’s no wonder a fake baby doll was obviously used in one scene, it just feels par for the course here. Scenes start and end without a moments notice, characters come in and out of the story with almost no effect, I bet no one even remembers Kyle’s brother in the movie.

The films most egregious moments are centered around anything to do with Chris Kyle’s wife Taya Kyle, played by Sienna Miller. Miller works well with what she’s given, the problem being she isn’t given much above a whining, scared housewife. a scene It feels like a step back for women, and I can’t believe that the real Taya Kyle would sign off on it.

The “Action” scenes, for lack of a better word, aren’t as tense as they should be, I’ve played snipers in video games with triple the tension that we get in this movie. It doesn’t help that we’re given a mundane score, which does nothing to help these scenes along. The tension is also defeated by the fact that we don’t know any other character in movie, the only two characters we actually get to know in the film are Chris and Taya Kyle. If you know anything about the story of Chris Kyle, than you know what happens with Chris and Taya, so not getting to care for any other character in Chris’ SEAL team makes any form of tension obsolete.

Between tours, we watch as Chris Kyle adapts to home life, with his wife and two kids. Kyle’s having a rough time getting used to being home, and it’s affecting his marriage and parenting. It should be more emotional, but these scenes bore on with cliché’s and stilted dialogue that it’s quite easy to lose interest. It really lost me when we hear Taya say the standard “Even when you’re here, you’re not here” line.

The movies one silver lining (get it) is Bradley Coopers portrayal of Kyle. Cooper plays Chris Kyle remarkably, conveying his emotions, or lack there of, with a subtle grace, that many actors could have played bigger. Coopers Oscar nomination is the only nomination out of the six that I can get behind.

If American Sniper was directed by someone with a little more skill and patience, maybe I could agree with the movies six Oscar Nominations, as for now, I can think of 4 or 5 movies that should be in its spot.

I don’t want to talk to much about the controversy surrounding the film, but I can’t help agree with Seth Rogen’s tweet (See Below). We wouldn’t be talking about it if the sniper scenes, and the whole film, were handled with even the slightest hint of artistic integrity.

Grade: D+

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