Chris Kyle is known as the most lethal sniper in the history of the American military, with 180 kills officially credited to him, at least according to Wikipedia. American Sniper attempts to explain how this happened, while painting Kyle as a hero. The film was written by Jason Hall, based on an autobiography of Kyle and stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller.
In some ways the film succeeds and in some it doesn’t. The film begins with Kyle as a child, with his father taking him hunting, where he is first introduced to rifles and killing. He is then taught that it’s his job to protect other people, and this seems to lead Kyle to his god complex.
Bradley Cooper, who was nominated for an Academy Award for his spectacular performance, plays Kyle. As much as is possible, Cooper physically became Kyle, even changing his manner of speaking and gaining about 45 pounds of muscle, making him an imposing presence.
After witnessing an attack on an American embassy on the news, Kyle is compelled to protect everyone, as his father taught him, and joins the military, where he ends up as a Navy SEAL and a sniper. After finishing his training, he meets Taya, played by Sienna Miller, in a role where she unfortunately has very little to do, who he marries.
The film then follows a basic format of Kyle going on a tour in Iraq, where he kills many people, and doesn’t seem to feel any psychological effect from it. They give Cooper a moment to react after his first kill, which is a very dramatic one to begin with, and then it seems that he is very comfortable killing people, and it’s shown like it’s video game, as Kyle kills evil (his term) Iraqi after evil Iraqi. He then returns home from a tour to see his wife, where he starts to act more and more withdrawn and shows symptoms of PTSD, which are barely addressed, other than through dramatic conversations with Taya that don’t last very long before Kyle has to go back to Iraq, with a kind of mania that gives the impression he might believe the war would fail without him.
A storyline involving a terrorist sniper develops on the tours, and it gives Kyle something else to fixate on. It’s also made clear that everyone else around him practically worships him, referring to him by the nickname “Legend”, which might partially explain the god complex.
Clint Eastwood directed the film, and he uses shades of brown for all the scenes in Iraq, making it look more desolate than the scenes when Kyle is back home. The visuals work well, and the battle scenes grab the viewer’s attention in between scenes of sometimes very little happening.
The main standout of American Sniper is Cooper’s performance, and possibly all the political attention the film garnered. It’s worth watching, but it’s an intense film about a man who is maybe too intense.
(All opinions of Chris Kyle are of the character in the film only, and have nothing to do with the actual person.)