“If you think that this war isn't changing you you're wrong. You can only circle the flames so long.”
Clint Eastwood latest directorial film is an adaptation of American Sniper from the book by Chris Kyle. Bradley Cooper is given the lead role and Sienna Millar stars as Tara, the love interest and eventually wife. The plot is based and centred on the exploits of Kyle, a Texan patriotic guy who starts of as a country cowboy then seeing on television the 9/11 events, he wants to make a difference, becomes a seal and sniper who does 4 tours in Iraq. The audience is also shown the gradual repercussions and effects on Kyle as the horrors of war, loss of fellow fighters and the killing of insurgents, which are sometimes civilians such as women or children. Clint Eastwood plays upon the empathy of the viewer while showing the hero as sympathetic. Although I will write about the problems concerning the war of Iraq and the enemy being shown in a very one dimensional manner later in this review.
Film making, effects, cinematography: To be expected from an experienced director Clint Eastwood achieves in making a war film that is executed with high quality visuals and epic fight scenes. American Sniper is well made and fast paced, this is when preceding to taking facts, truth, sources and research out of the equation. It has clever camera angles and methods that transport the viewer in a sometimes topographic viewpoint.
Story, acting, character development: Obviously the cast and crew are top notch, notably Bradley Cooper gives a solid, layered performance as the lead role and really shows a very unyielding patriotism. Clint Eastwood manages to sometimes exploit the audience by playing on their heartstrings and empathy. The performances from Bradley Cooper and Sienna Millar immediately with their progression throughout the story intensifies as they are shown at breaking point, how the war is effecting them psychologically. What remains problematic is that Clint Eastwood is doing his best to show Chris Kyle and company in the best possible light while having in mind he has to respect family in real life. This is where I encounter more dilemmas with the real life Kyle and the one in the film. Anyone familiar with the book American sniper will remember the real life Chris Kyle enjoyed the fame, the killing, the exaggerations regarding his exploits and the way he termed all the Iraqis as savages. The film, despite the attempt to show remorse from kyle for his actions, it doesn’t completely remove the negatives from the reality of this war and situation. The film is so intent on painting Kyle in a positive light the story sometimes shies away from the reality: 1) The Iraq war being a complete disaster. 2) The civilians (Iraqi people) referred to as savages. 3) The false correlation between 9/11, Al-Qaeda, and Iraq. 4) Saddam Hussein, its oil and Iraq a sovereign state destroyed: The result destroyed infrastructure, exploited resources and the resulting vacuum being filled with religious extremists. The reality is similar to intervention in Vietnam and Afghanistan: A waste of life and money on all sides.
American Sniper attempts to give plausibility and justification, as well as the hero worship of a man called a liar, that the Iraq war was a triumph. The film that Clint Eastwood has used his exceptional skills amounts to propaganda with devices preying on the empathy or bloodlust of the audience.
There is also a nemesis Iraqi sniper who is shown as the enemy equivalent of Kyle. He is often shown jumping across rooftops and structures reminiscent of something out of a Jason Bourne action film. The frustrating aspect of him is that he is given very basic character development: We are given meagre details concerning his background or personality. Clint Eastwood’s Letters of Iwo Jima was unbiased and explored both sides in the conflict, unlike American Sniper. The Iraq sniper also has a family, was in the Olympics and seems to mirror Kyle in ways that show the similarities between two extremes: They are both fighting for something they believe in. Clint Eastwood could have been clever and explored both sides whereas the biased, dogmatic source which is the American Sniper book only achieves a distorted view from one side.
Music, score, sound: I can’t fault the composer Joseph S. DeBeasi and Clint Eastwood, as always moving, in-depth and poignant.
Summary and conclusion: I was caught between truth and falsity with American Sniper, where Clint Eastwood has used his talents to make a well-made film. This doesn’t mean it is healthy or has honest intentions. If Clint decided to make a film about an evil, lying megalomaniac he could reverse the reality and show the individual as a saint because he as a film maker is at the top of his game. This is disappointing for me as this is one of those rare instances in a film that it becomes dangerous and questionable when concerning a war and a person where this film is justifying and glorifying something wrong and violent that could be seen by the masses as worth repeating again with yet another questionable conflict and war.