Just been watching…(47)

American Sniper (2014)

***This is a true story, so spoilers are already out there***

I am late to this film, obviously. I bought a used copy from Amazon for just £1, and watched it yesterday. Clint Eastwood directed this true life story of Chris Kyle, the most effective sniper in US military history. Kyle is played by Bradley Cooper, and his wife by Sienna Miller. This is a long film, so also a longer than usual review.

The film begins in the Iraq war, and immediately flashes back to the boyhood upbringing of Kyle. We see a stern yet caring father, determined to bring up his sons the right way; reflecting his values, and learning to hunt. The young Chris shows a natural talent with a rifle, but he really wants to be a rodeo star. Fast forward to Chris in his late twenties, (Cooper) touring the rodeo circuits with his younger brother, and enjoying moderate success. Then the US embassy bombings occur in 1998, and the fiercely patriotic Kyle enlists in the military, training to become a Navy Seal. Despite being one of the oldest recruits, his determination gets him through, and his skill with a rifle gets him trained to become one of the elite snipers, providing cover for troops operating in the streets below his high vantage point.

He also meets an attractive young woman in a bar (Miller) and falls for her, beginning a serious relationship which soon leads to marriage. During his wedding, the unit receive their orders to travel to the war in Iraq, and the film transfers the action there.

For me as a viewer, it is in these foreign locations where the film excels. Always convincing, with a constant feeling of threat, danger, and menace. The tension rarely lets up, even during the quiet moments, and everything from the dusty streets, to the still rooftop lairs of Kyle, are always believable in the extreme. Much of the action is seen through the magnification of his telescopic sight. We see what he sees, in real time, with decisions having to be made in a heartbeat. To fire, or not to fire? The pressure of protecting his comrades on the ground patrols, and the complications of perhaps making a ‘bad kill’, and facing the repercussions of that act. Cooper acts this stillness surprisingly well, and small facial movements show us his thought process, as he makes life and death calls every day.

Returning home to his wife and new baby son, he is a changed man. She senses the difference in him, and the distance he feels from his life back in America. He is restless, worrying about his comrades, keen to return to combat. Their relationship suffers, but endures.

Back on his second tour of duty in Iraq, he is faced with an enemy sniper, a skillful Syrian insurgent. This man is killing US soldiers at an alarming rate, and Kyle makes it his mission to try to find and stop this man. But this is not the same story as we saw in ‘Enemy At The Gates’, though the theme is similar. By now, the enemy is also aware of this effective American sniper, who has killed so many of their fighters. They put up a huge financial reward for anyone who can kill him, so now Kyle has to operate with a price on his head too.

Home on leave once again, things are not getting any better. he has a baby daughter, and a growing son. A wife who is unhappy managing alone for months on end, with children who hardly know their father. She wants Chris to come home, to stop serving in Iraq. She becomes convinced that he has a death wish, and that he won’t stop until he gets himself killed over there. But he won’t leave his comrades unprotected, and remains convinced that they have to stop the militants in Iraq, so that the war doesn’t come to the US in the long run.

So, two more tours of duty, and an eventual return home for good are covered. When overseas, Chris still hunts for the elusive enemy sniper, often getting tantalisingly close, only for the man to escape at the last moment. The cost to his own well-being is dealt with, as he constantly drifts back and forth between caring for his family, and worrying about those left behind. There is some debate about his unquestioning patriotism, and the futility of the ongoing war that sees his younger brother drawn into the conflict, as well as the loss of so many of his good friends.

The ending is done with dignity, and lack of show. It is almost the perfect ending.

So, is it good? It is very good indeed, as far as I am concerned. The action sequences are often brilliantly handled, and make for nail-biting viewing at times. But the best moments are those when we look along the rifle, through the sight with the same view as Chris. Those moments when you have to make that call; take the shot, or not. It leaves us wondering what we would do, and transports us into the heart and mind of the shooter. Taking us to a world we can only imagine, if we have never been in the military.

Eastwood got this one just right. Here’s a trailer.

30 thoughts on “Just been watching…(47)

  1. I really want to see this film. I have “Enemy at the Gates” on DVD, and think it’s underrated. Does the film mention the tragic, and very ironic, end to Chris Kyle’s life back home? His widow, Taya, is now a contributor on the Fox News network, by the way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Pete. I must catch this one as I usually enjoy Eastwood’s movies (like you, sometimes I find Bradley Cooper over the top but I also thought he was fantastic in American Hustle).
    Thanks for the recommendation. I’ll check it out.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It is nice to see you enjoyed the movie as did i when i had watched it.

    War can evidently change a man and we see those changes in a harsh manner with Chris Kyle. Like you rightly stated, these types of movies with certain actors can be a ‘hit or miss’ in the industry, but I feel Clint Eastwood did a remarkable job in showing the ‘right’ amount of visibility in such a war zone to get some sort of experience for us to capture too.

    It’s never going to be fully justified but I liked how he invisioned it enough to make the movie have that likable depth and emotion to it.

    “I’m willing to meet my creator and answer for every shot that I took”.

    P.s (I have tried to email you a few days ago if you were able to recieve it, if not that is fine).

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh dear. I hope it has not reached another ‘anonymous’ Pete though it is odd as that is the email I have sent it too. Perhaps a fault along the electrical lines. It doesn’t matter. I had elaborated a little more about my illness as some things I did not wish to publicily mention.

        Liked by 1 person

          1. Glad to know you have received them. I apologise for the double messages..it must be some glitch in the system earlier.

            I should also add..I’d you do not have the time or wish to reply that is fine too..as it was something for you to read upon a certain something but I look foward to it whenever you can or wish to.

            Madame Vintage

            Liked by 1 person

  4. I finally watched that movie some months ago. I found it to be a great movie, as you have so aptly pointed out. The only frustration I had, was he seemed more concerned about his comrades, and the conflict/war, than his loving wife and kids. He should have gotten out sooner, maybe then fate would have changed for him. Great review Pete!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Ron. If it had been a fictional story, I would no doubt agree about the family/comrades issue. But as it was a true story, I suppose that was the way he actually behaved. Glad you enjoyed the review.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Yes, I loved it. This film converted me to the talents of Bradley Cooper. I agree about the ending is perfect. And while I know and respect Eastwood for including strong women showing the relationships behind the protagonist, I agree, the home scenes with wife aggravated me. A cool insight to modern war was when he was able to talk to her on his cell while looking down the barrel. That’s a first, at war and talking to loved ones at home simultaneously.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, Cindy. Chatting to his wife during the action strained my belief a little, I confess. However, as it is a true story, I had to conclude it actually happened. I have been hit and miss with Cooper, but I thought he was very good here, and in ‘American Hustle’ too.
      Best wishes, Pete.

      Liked by 1 person

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