What He said:
What She said:
I'll be honest, I'm not sure I would have ever seen American Sniper if it were not for my mom. Unless you've been living under a rock, I'm sure you're well aware of all the hype surrounding this movie. It was not really a topic or genre that interested me, plus I'm just not that into Clint Eastwood-directed films. But one epic family vacation brought me and this movie together, interrupted only by the alarm on the house septic system telling me that our sewage was backing up (literally, this was a vacation for the record books).
The movie is based on a memoir of the same name by Chris Kyle, and so it's autobiographical. It tells Kyle's story, as he rose to fame as a top sniper in the Navy SEALs. Kyle holds the record for the most sniper kills in U.S. military history, at least according to his count. This affected Kyle's life in profound ways. First, he actually completed four full tours in Iraq, which has got to be tough, plus there's also the mental anguish of knowing you've been responsible for so many deaths. American Sniper portrays Kyle as loyal, but also slightly cocky. He's a caring father, but also someone who has been largely absent from his children's lives. His profession has also put a strain on his relationship with his wife, Taya. Bottom line: Kyle is a better sniper and soldier than he is a family man, and once his tours are completed he struggles to adjust to normal life. Kyle begins volunteering for other veterans, and quite famously is ultimately murdered by one of the vets he was trying to help.
Kyle's story is an interesting one--a man from classic Texas roots, the very definition of American, who catapults to notoriety by being excellent at killing bad guys. The movie shows him killing a number of people--from your stereotypical terrorists to women and children acting as suicide bombers, and this does have a deep impact on him. He may be good at his job, but he's also a human being with some pretty human feelings.
The problem I have with this movie is that I don't think Eastwood does a very good job of showing the harsh realities for Kyle. I know that he is bothered by his kills, but this is glossed over a little bit. I would have liked to have seen the psychological impact of Kyle's line of work further explored in greater depth. Likewise, I would have liked to have seen the affect of his work on his home life further examined. We're told that he's not around and his wife is fed up, but the emotional wrought of it is not as apparent as I would have liked to have seen. There was definitely room for improvement, as the general flow of the film felt choppy, an irregular collection of scenes alternating between life at home and kills in the field.
On the upside, I felt that the acting in this film was very good. Bradley Cooper physically morphed himself into Chris Kyle, putting on weight, changing his demeanor, and speaking in a relatively authentic accent. Likewise, Sienna Miller was also solid as Taya. She can be sassy, but is also a protective mother. I just wished that this movie would have been written and directed in a different way--one that enabled the actors to really shine as the depths of their characters is explored and revealed.
Because of the way the film was directed, I think it felt a little stale and dare I say boring. I did not find it as compelling as it could have been. Some tweaks to the writing, direction,and cinematography could have helped immensely. I mean, at the very least Eastwood could have tried harder to make the film more interesting to look at, but disappointingly most of the camera shots and sequences are very straightforward. Not bad, just void of any extra style or visual appeal--really anything to help make the story captivating to watch.
American Sniper was not a terribly bad movie; it just was not as good as I was hoping it would be. Great acting, underdeveloped story, mediocre direction, and middling visual appeal.
Thumbs half up.