Not a Movie Snob - American Sniper

Posted on Friday, January 16, 2015 at 10:00 AM

Movie: American Sniper (2015)

"Good to Go"

American Sniper

Movie Review by Griffintainment X

Clint Eastwood's a sneaky bugger. I had no idea he was even working on a new film and out of nowhere: American Sniper. Considering the man is 84 years old, this is an extremely ambitious project to undertake. On the other hand, after 50+ years of filmmaking in one respect or another, it shouldn't surprise me that the quality of work this man is spitting out at this point in his life is some of his best.

American Sniper is a true story about a man who seemed born for military combat. Chris Kyle, a Texas patriot who at the age of 30 (military years are similar to hockey years, so 30 is old) enlisted in the Navy SEALS and went over to Iraq, killing over 160 enemy soldiers in 4 tours of duty.

The film balances the combat scenes (more about those in a minute), with his struggles coming home and trying to live a 'normal' suburban life, playing husband and father. Fittingly, the domestic scenes are awkward and uncomfortable and in some regards there is more tension in these scenes than in some of the combat ones. Kyle himself is uncomfortable, on edge. His knowledge that the war on terror is raging across the world without him, tortures him and he's never truly at ease until he's back with his squadron brothers on the battlefield.

This causes strife in his marriage and estrangement from his kids. He vows that he's fine and that the atrocities he's seen on the battlefield haven't affected him, but he shows all the classic signs of PTSD. He always, for 4 tours anyway, ends up reenlisting, in an effort to save his own sanity if nothing else. These are very real issues military men have been dealing with for as long as there have been wars to fight. There is a frightening reality to these scenes that can make them hard to watch.

On the other side of the coin, Kyle is in Iraq, doing what he does best, protecting his team mates by exterminating the enemy. There are scenes of quiet suspense: Kyle lying prone with his sniper rifle for hours upon hours, waiting for a potential threat to present itself. There are scenes of sharp edged intensity: a team of SEALS and Marines advancing upon an enemy hideout. And there are scenes of utter chaos: being blindsided by an enemy ambush. There is a particularly biting set piece involving an attack on Kyle's team during a zero visibility sand storm that is hard to shake. But through it all, this character, not unlike the man himself I'm sure, is in his element protecting his country in this brutal, seemingly endless foreign war that has claimed far too many lives in its duration.

This isn't Eastwood's first depiction of war. He directed the fine WWII drama Flags of Our Fathers and its brilliant companion piece Letters From Iwo Jima. He's also directed more than his fair share of grand stage action set pieces in everything from Dirty Harry movies to a plethora of dusty westerns. As well as gritty, true life drama in films like Mystic River and Million Dollar Baby. All of which seem to have conditioned his talents in anticipation of the material found within American Sniper.

But as impressive as the talent is behind the camera, it's Bradley Cooper's performance in front of it that really drives the point home. This is acting on a grand scale: larger than life when it needs to be, understated when it needs to be. Throughout much of the film you forget that that's Bradley Cooper up there are just buy that it's Chris Kyle. Which is about the greatest compliment you can pay an actor as well known as Cooper is.

The only real qualm I have with the movie is that we've seen this all before: the American hero at home on the battlefield; the chaotic battle scenes in dusty Iraqi streets; the soldier who has difficulty reentering western society and the relationships that suffer as a result. That doesn't mean American Sniper isn't a good film or that you shouldn't see it. There are many true life stories about this war, but this one is particularly succinct. It should stay with you long after the end credit music has faded away.

And as long as there are wars to fight, there will be talented craftsmen to turn them into impressive entertainments. Which may sound like a way to take a positive from a negative situation, but no war film, no matter how good, will ever be worth the fallen bodies that inspired its creation.

Rating: ****

Calgary Showtimes: American Sniper >American Sniper: The IMAX Experience >


NOTE: The showtimes listed on come directly from the theatres' announced schedules, which are distributed to us on a weekly basis. All showtimes are subject to change without notice or recourse to