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Film Review: ‘American Sniper’ – The Demands of Love and Country

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Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ drama American Sniper, distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures. Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

Chris Kyle, known as the deadliest sniper in U.S. history, credited with over 160 kills, is the subject of director Clint Eastwood’s Oscar-nominated film, American Sniper. Adapted from Kyle’s memoir by screenwriter and executive producer Jason Hall, the film covers the Navy SEAL’s four tours of Iraq and the effect that they had on Chris and his family.

Starring in the film is Bradley Cooper, who recently earned an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for his portrayal of Kyle. Cooper brought an authentic physicality to the role, putting on 40 lbs. of muscle and working with a dialect coach to complete his transformation into the Texas native that came to be known as “Legend.”

There has been a lot said about American Sniper and its alleged political agenda, but what this film boils down to is relationships. It’s about Chris’ relationship with his wife Taya (played by Sienna Miller) and it’s also about his relationship with his brothers in arms.

 

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(L–R) Bradley Cooper as Chris Kyle and Sienna Miller as Taya in Warner Bros. Pictures’ and Village Roadshow Pictures’ drama American Sniper, distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures. Photo by Keith Bernstein.

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Poster: Courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.

At times, it’s not an easy film to watch; the visuals of wartime in Iraq give the audience a better idea of what those in the military are sacrificing. It’s not just putting their lives on the line while serving their country; it’s also dealing with the experiences they’ve gone through once they’re back home.

I found the scenes where Chris was home in between tours to be some of Cooper’s finest acting. After returning from his first tour of duty, the sound of a lawn mower that most people would ignore is a trigger for Chris. Cooper’s reaction to the sound let the audience know that he’s being affected; yet it was subtle enough to understand that Chris didn’t want to show any visible signs of trauma.

Miller is tremendous in the role of Taya. She loves her husband and is supportive, yet due to how closed off Chris is when he returns home, she can’t comprehend why, after multiple tours, he feels compelled to return overseas. You can’t help but empathize with her when her frustration boils over, as she expresses that she needs her husband to come back to her and for him to be present.

 

There’s a scene in the film, where Chris visits a psychiatrist and in a rare moment of candidness shares, “The thing that haunts me are all the guys that I couldn’t save.” Those words are as powerful as they are heartbreaking.

American Sniper is not your average war film. Whether or not you’re familiar with the story of Chris Kyle, the film provides a better understanding of those who go to war, the family left behind at home and the emotions that both parties experience. 

American Sniper is in theaters now.