This weekend saw the release of American Sniper. I was wanting to see this movie as I had followed the story of Chris Kyle as it unfolded in the media in the past few years.
A quick Google search will give a little bit of an idea what had swirled around this man in life.
With Clint Eastwood directing and Bradley Cooper staring and producing, I was confident that the movie would be done well. I did have some reservations that the feeling of reverence for America might easily eclipse any tension or characterization that one would hope for in this movie. Thankfully, these concerns were misplaced.
This movie tells the abbreviated story of Chris Kyle, reputed deadliest sniper in american history. Bradley Cooper takes on the role of Chris Kyle. The movie opens up as Chris’ team sets up to begin over watch on Marines going through Fallujah. The audience gets to watch as a mother and child come out of a building and head toward the convoy. Chris is forced to evaluate the situation as the mother pulls out an object and has to take the shot to keep her from throwing a grenade at the Convoy. As the young boy picks up the grenade, the tension ratchets up as we wait to see what will happen. The movie then jumps us to Chris as child and hunting with his father for the first time. This type of tension building is the hallmark of the film. Even knowing how the movie ends, I was on the edge of my seat with each of these tension points. It wasn’t fear for the main character which maintained this tension but the decisions which had to be made in the moment and the loss of life on both sides. What follows is a journey with Chris from childhood back to this one point in time to this decision point and beyond.
The movie carries a quiet, reverential tone for Chris throughout which is expected. It puts on display a man with deeply held beliefs that get him through these very difficult spots while hinting at the flaws that make for a much more intriguing person. The movie presents the issues that crop up for each of Chris’ tours in Iraq and only gives the viewer the answer that he does not want to leave a job undone. The real answer is messy and only hinted at throughout the movie. The same is done for the effects of being in hot zone as a sniper.
Bradley Cooper’s performance as Chris Kyle is excellent. He could have easily been portrayed as the dumb redneck or the over-the-top patriot and is instead given a more realistic image. Bradley gives us a laconic yet affable Chris that is easy to like and hard to look away from when the trigger points become so intense. Cooper shows the inner-turmoil that one would think that kept Chris Kyle awake at night without making him a raging psychopath.
I enjoyed this movie. It started out with that frisson of doubt that this is going to be a ‘Murica type movie and quickly sheds this yoke and gives a nice character piece filled with tension. It is definitely a heavy movie in that once it is over there is a sense of relief but not in a bad way. It is a movie definitely worth seeing on the big screen. I would definitely see it again.