Film Reviews

AMERICAN SNIPER

By • Dec 30th, 2014 •

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AMERICAN SNIPER would be a peerless film if director Clint Eastwood kept to Kyle’s fascinating military career in Iraq and left out the annoying, under-written personal story – and the glaring fake babies. How about that fake breastfeeding scene?

The History Channel’s “One Mile Sniper Kill Shot” analyzed the .50 cal sniper, one mile kill shot by Marine Steve Reichert on April 9, 2004 in Iraq. Reichert’s sniper shot was made from 1,614 meters and was the deciding factor in the outcome of the firefight. It made Marine Corps history. 1,614 meters means Staff Sgt. Reichert scored a kill shot at fifteen feet beyond a mile.

AMERICAN SNIPER is the story of Navy Seal Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), the most lethal sniper in American military history with 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable kills.

The long-range sniping record was held by Carlos Hathcock from 1967 to 2002 at 2,286 meters (2,500 yd). He recorded 93 official kills before an injury halted his service on the front lines. The current record is held by Briton Corporal of Horse (CoH) Craig Harrison, who recorded a 2,475 meters (2,707 yd) shot in November 2009 during in the War in Afghanistan in which he shot two static machine gunners consecutively.

Kyle meets Taya (Sienna Miller) at a bar favored by Navy Seals. She is sitting alone at the bar. She comes off as a tough cookie. She harshly dismisses the first guy who approaches her but she permits Kyle to talk to her. Taya announces she doesn’t date soldiers because her sister was engaged to a soldier at one time. Apparently, it ended badly. Then she gulps down 4 or maybe more shots of hard liquor.

After a romance, they marry. Kyle is clearly not the type of man who talks about his feelings and engages in confessional conversations. He wasn’t brought up to express his “feminine side”. We know this right away but Taya doesn’t know the man she married.

In flashbacks, we see how he and his brother were raised by their father, who taught Kyle how to shoot. Kyle is so moved by the 911 attacks that he signs up for the Navy Seals. After the crucifying initiation – he’s one of the oldest men in the SEAL training – he finds out he is good at accurate shooting.

The film opens with Kyle’s first tour and first confirmed kill and it is harrowing. We learn that every possible shot must be called in. The rules are well-defined and soldiers always have to consider the consequences when civilians are targeted.

The scenes in combat are tense and filled with precision and are thrilling. AMERICAN SNIPER loses its impact when we are brought back to Taya complaining to Kyle that she is lonely. Meanwhile, Kyle is on the phone with his finger on the trigger.

Kyle does four tours in Iraq – by now he’s called “Legend” and the soldiers feel safe if they know he is on a roof watching over them. Yet every time he comes home Taya wants him to tell her every detail of his days “in country”. She wants a father for her children. She wants Kyle to stay home and get a job.

Kyle has a nemesis – “the Butcher” – a skilled Iraqi sniper who is taking out American soldiers. Kyle’s fame as a sniper has spread to Iraq. Kyle has a large bounty on his head.

Back on the sofa with Taya, Kyle is haunted by the deaths of soldiers as he passively watches TV news on the war. He wants to go back. Against Taya’s wishes – she wants him to barbeque and talk about their daughter’s new tooth. Though Kyle is laid back and unaffected by his “Legend” moniker, he’s good at it and it means something to him. His younger brother Jeff (Keir O’Donnell) enlists and we never see him again.

Kyle needs his connection to Taya to stay grounded. She calls him while he is in the middle of a firefight. He is such a nice guy, he doesn’t tell her he’s busy protecting fellow soldiers from being ambushed and killed.

Kyle must find and eliminate “the Butcher” and this part of AMERICAN SNIPER is quite exciting and tense.

Finally, the brutality of war overtakes Kyle and he returns home “for good”. The end of Kyle’s life gives meaning to “Karmic Debt”.

The film could easily be seen as an “anti-war” film. When you see what director Clint Eastwood represents as the destruction of an historic country and how American soldiers invade people’s homes, you come away feeling terrible about forcing – even if it means war – our way of life on others.

Cooper is fantastic and completely committed to representing Chris Kyle. Cooper’s Kyle ignores the praise and honor heaped on him. It embarrasses him. Packing on a lot of muscular weight – it is reported Cooper gained 40 pounds – Cooper’s powerful performance is one of a slow-metered cadence.

Eastwood re-emerges as a fine director after that disastrous JERSEY BOYS. Just who talked Eastwood into that? Or did Eastwood’s vanity as a musician get the best of him? In any case, Eastwood has assembled a fine crew to bring AMERICAN SNIPER to the screen. If only screenwriter Jason Hall – basing the screenplay on American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History by Chris Kyle with Scott McEwen and James Defelice – had delved more deeply into the marriage.

Member of Boadcast Film Critics Association: www.bfca.org

Member of Las Vegas Film Critics Society:www.lvfcs.org

Victoria Alexander lives in Las Vegas, Nevada and answers every email at masauu@aol.com.

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