In many ways, American Sniper is one of the best war films to be released in recent times. Its gritty, realistic colour palette complements the calculated and calm sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) perfectly. For all the intense focus on Kyle and his inner conflicts, this deep focus leaves little room for the other characters to grow. Its not perfect, with an abrupt ending that feels more uncomfortable than satisfying but this action packed war flick certainly does a good job of telling its story, even if it isn’t always accurate to the true story of the sniper himself.
American Sniper tells the story of the most proficient sniper in the Iraq War, Chris Kyle, and his struggles on and off the battlefield. The story does take a little while to get going and it does feel like it drags a little in the middle section but once the film settles into a rhythm, Director Clint Eastwood boasts a story that’s well paced and accompanied by a smartly written script. As a character driven biography, American Sniper shines. It tells Chris Kyle’s story well, with sufficient tension and action packed elements to make it an enthralling watch but the intense character-driven focus leaves little room for any of the other characters to really stand out or make their mark on the film.
Bradley Cooper is excellent as Chris Kyle though and he radiates calmness and deep inner turmoil perfectly. The scenes away from the battlefield help to accentuate his character, showing the lasting impact the war has had on not just his family but also his personal life. The trouble with this tunnelled focus on Kyle means that some of the interactions with his family feel disjointed and awkward. Perhaps this was done deliberately to accentuate the impact the war has had on his own social ability but it lacks credibility during what should be really emotional moments. This could have been rectified with some better characterisation for the supporting cast but when the focus shifts back to Chris Kyle, alone in Iraq with his sniper, the film feels more at home.
Based on the biography written about Chris Kyle himself, the film was always going to garner criticism by some of the more die-hard readers and to an extent, American Sniper does feature some historical inaccuracies to the character. Much like Lone Survivor that came before this, if you can look past these inaccuracies there’s certainly enough to like but for those looking for a historically accurate portrayal of the original American Sniper, it may well be better off looking elsewhere.
Overall though, American Sniper is a decent war film. Its not as groundbreaking or Oscar worthy as the trailer would potentially make it out to be but there’s enough here to like. Bradley Cooper is outstanding as the emotionally scarred sniper and the action that’s depicted is breathlessly tense and well shot. Despite the story taking a while to get going and the supporting cast not given the time to flesh their characters out, American Sniper is worth checking out. It may not be the most accurate portrayal of American’s most prolific sniper but Clint Eastwood still manages to hit the mark with his war film.