<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner, Luke Grimes, Ben Reed
A highly effective trailer that consisted of the opening 5 minutes of this film got me interested in watching it. Of course now that it’s been nominated for some Oscars more people will watch. But they may not love it.
In American Sniper it is the effects of war on the brave soldiers who lay down their lives for their country that is showcased.
The film, another based on a book and a true story, is about The Legend, a war hero Navy SEAL called Chris Kyle whose job it is to be an over watch sniper sprawled out on enemy land (mostly terraces of buildings) picking out targets and protecting his fellow marines. He was attributed with over 160 verified kills on his four tours of duty in Iraq. Why he chose to go back is a crucial plot point in the movie that has bearing on his family life.
Sienna Miller plays his wife and in a clichéd role she is the one who nags and cribs about his overly patriotic bent of mind; she needs him with her and their two kids and not off fighting a war. But on his breaks between tours, Kyle deals with the traumas of his job like thousands of other war veterans who return to find little psychological support from the country they served.
American Sniper flip flops through time at points going back to Kyle’s childhood days and his strict Texan father’s relationship with him and his brother. Bradley Cooper delivers an intense performance but I doubt it’s Oscar-worthy. And while the film maintains a tense mood throughout, there is little here we haven’t seen before. Sure there are heart-pounding moments (maybe two or three of them) when Kyle has to decide whether or not to shoot an Iraqi child but everything else seems formula. And there’s way too much flag waving going on here rather than an actual focus on war vets and the post traumatic stress they have to deal with.
As far as war taking a toll on individuals who are gifted but facing tribulations, Angelina Jolie’s Unbroken is still the film I would go to as a template for a good war movie that balances the horrors of war with the triumph of human spirit perfectly.
PS: American Sniper broke a record by making the most amount of box office takings for a January opening taking in over US $90 million and had the biggest gross for a single day in January.