Sunday, January 18, 2015
Movie Review: "American Sniper"
Growing up in Texas, what Chris Kyle (a beefy Bradley Cooper) wanted more than anything was to be a cowboy. It seemed like the perfect match for his devil-may-care, reckless style, plus cowboys do pretty well with women, too. But when the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania were bombed in 1998, he realized he had a more important purpose, and joined the military, training to be a Navy SEAL.
While training, he meets Taya (Sienna Miller), an intelligent and independent woman who quickly falls for the brash soldier. But after 9/11, she knows Chris is headed to Iraq, and that he faces danger and possible death. As he becomes an elite sniper known as "The Legend," protecting his fellow soldiers and taking down insurgents before they can cause greater harm, Taya wants to understand how Chris feels about killing people, and how it will affect his life, and theirs. But Chris is single-minded in his determination to serve his country and protect his fellow soldiers.
His time in Iraq doesn't affect Chris nearly as much as being home does, even as he and Taya begin raising a family. The difficulty of being away from Iraq and knowing that his compatriots are at risk without him affects him greatly, as do the simple, startling sounds of everyday life which affect many soldiers returning home from war. As much as Taya wants him to stay home and build their life together, he wants to go back to Iraq, and each time he decides to return it puts a greater strain on their marriage.
While in Iraq, Chris and the squad he eventually leads are in search of a deadly sniper known as Mustafa. Chris wants more than anything to kill Mustafa, and is willing to risk everythingeven his own lifeto do it, as it would symbolize retribution for the lives Mustafa has taken. But as the tension grows in Iraq, Chris starts to realize that he wants to be present in his own life, and for his family.
This is an intense film, and Eastwood does an excellent job in particular with the scenes in Iraq, ratcheting up the tension and giving the film a "you are there" feel in the heat of battle. Cooper gives a fantastic performance as a man whose immense physical and emotional strength at the most chaotic of times can't protect his heart, or his life away from the battlefield. It is a mixture of bravado, vulnerability, and confusion that he can't control everything the way he can control the bullets from his gun. Miller does a great job as well, although her character sometimes has the thankless job of begging her husband to stay home with her instead of serving his country and protecting his fellow soldiers.
I thought that the movie ran a little longer than it needed to; although the movie was faithful to Kyle's memoir, which followed him on all four tours of Iraq, I felt as if it got a little repetitive at times, although I understand why. I also wish that we had gotten to know some of Chris' compatriots a little better, save the two who had the most screen time. But these are merely quibblesthis is a tremendously powerful movie that does great justice to the life of Chris Kyle and his amazing bravery in protecting the lives of so many. We are fortunate that men and women like Chris Kyle are willing to lay down their lives to serve and defend our country.