Director: Clint Eastwood
Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner
'American Sniper' has been nominated for a bunch of Oscars – and it only proves that The Academy will give Clint Eastwood every award that they can. Even if the man makes a video of a plain white doorknob he'll still score nominations for best picture and director.
'American Sniper'. Pic/Santa Banta
'Flags of our Fathers' and 'Letters to Iwo Jima' were the last genuinely great films from Eastwood, and the eight year gap between those movies is pretty much on display in 'American Sniper'. There is no central focus in this movie except for one particular thing – Oscar baiting.
The film follows the real life adventures of Chris Kyle, an American soldier stationed in Iraq during the Afghan invasion. Kyle is proficient in sniping out the enemy and goes on to become a war hero and a legend of sorts after garnering a record number of kills. To its credit the film opens with a bang – we're plunged straight into the battle zone of Iraq where a tense scene is taking place. Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) is zoomed in on a little boy carrying a bomb towards his unit, and he has a choice between harming his unit and killing off the kid. It's an interesting existential choice and we're made to believe the whole film would be as smart and thrilling as this sequence.
But with that basic premise and the tense opening scene out of the way in the first ten minutes, 'American Sniper' proceeds to stumble into the mosh pit of war drama clichés and the sanitization of the central character. Since this is an American movie about an American war hero in a war that America initiated, nothing grey about the hero is even mentioned. Kyle was supposed to be a nasty piece of work in real life, but the film portrays him as a godly family man who cannot have enough sympathy from the audiences.
Another downer is Cooper, although bearded and boarded in a very thick accent is the only thing that the film finds clarity in. Sadly the character of Kyle isn't very clear – we're repeatedly told that he's more comfortable in the thick of the war than dealing with social life back home, but since there is so much effort put into avoiding any negative character trait there is little to find the character interesting. Kyle is presented as an uber hero on the run from an uber (also sniper) villain, and it turns into a standard issue thriller, in fact a lesser version of 'The Green Zone', rather than the epic biopic you expect it to be. And if you're looking for some gunplay action in a war thriller, 'American Sniper' doesn't even achieve anything substantial on that front.