Saturday, January 17, 2015
Movie Review - "American Sniper" (2014) - Sacrficing The Legend
Imagine that the person you love most in this world came running at another person you care about with a machete. And the only way to stop them was for you to shot them. Could you pull the trigger? Did they deserve to shot? Could you live with yourself?
Now imagine doing this 160 times.
This is the tragedy of Chris Kyle, nicknamed "The Legend," and living up to that name by being the most lethal sniper in American military history. A man who saw no joy in killing, nor for the thrill of the hunt. This is a man believes in few things - Family, God and America. He would do anything to protect those that he cares about, even if that means self-sacrifice.
Not just laying down his life, but sacrificing his own happiness, thoughts and identity to serve and protect his country.
Such is the strength of Clint Eastwood's "American Sniper," as it hits at the core of many war films, but manages to hit it on the nose more than most others. Films like "The Hurt Locker" and "Full Metal Jacket" discuss the need to lose yourself in war, so that you can cope with all the death and destruction, but "American Sniper" makes it far more personal.
Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) has spent his young life being a wild cowboy, but finds no purpose or fulfillment out of it. When he learns about terrorist attacks in the Middle East, Chris enlists in the SEALS and puts his hunting skills to use and becomes an elite sniper. After the 9/11 attacks though, Chris is deployed to Iraq and makes a name for himself with his impeccable aim and zero hesitation. All the while, Chris thinks about his new wife, Taya (Sienna Miller) and the baby on the way.
While I was watching "American Sniper" I thought back to how similar it was to "The Hurt Locker." A modern-day war film about one guy and his many dangerous, sometimes disjointed, adventures while trying to maintain his sanity and survive his tour.
But as soon as I thought about that, I realized that "American Sniper" was better in almost every regard. This was due to one simple reason - Bradley Cooper's wonderful and heartfelt performance.
In "The Hurt Locker," Jeremy Renner has the same blank emotionless expression throughout the majority of the movie. He is desensitized to the violence, which makes it harder to connect to him on an emotional level. Cooper, however, seems to feel regret and disgust for every kill he has to make. He does not want to take these lives, but he is forced to.
In Chris Kyle's eyes, America is the greatest country in the world and those who threaten it with violence and death are evil people. If that's the case, there are a lot of evil people. They must be dealt with swiftly, before they hurt the people he cares about.
Like Chris says at one point, he is not protecting some dirt in the Middle East, but making sure these people do not attack San Diego or New York.
Yet once Chris gets back to his family, he can't stop thinking about those lives that he can't protect in Iraq. He can't stop seeing himself at the end of that sniper rifle. So much so that all he does is watch footage of the war, rather than raising his son or spending time with his wife.
Cooper hides behind shades and contemplation when at home, always thinking about the lives that he couldn't save. That is the heart of "American Sniper" and why reliability and understanding is so important in a war film.
When I walked out of the theater, I not only noticed a massive line for the next screening, but also several people wearing shirts with the American flag and even one wearing a "The Legend" shirt with The Punisher logo on it. I then realized that Chris Kyle was more than just a great shot, but a role model to those attempting to survive in the Middle East. A reminder of how strong the will to serve and protect your country can be. To always stand up for your ideals and let no one get in your way.
Personally, I came out of "American Sniper" seeing a man dedicate and sacrifice himself to his country, even if that means he loses himself. Driven by an uplifting and tense performance by Bradley Cooper, an unrelenting atmosphere where the enemy could be hiding around any corner and tight pacing and editing that keeps the story grounded in reality, this is a war tragedy that never lets up but you never want to look away from.
Final Grade: A-