By Ben Hooper.
Gun-totin’, flag-wavin’, bible-bashing wartime biopic.
The story of Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US military history, would always be a divisive one. To some, Kyle is a war hero, to others, a mass murderer.
Eastwood’s film is unambiguous about which side of the fence it stakes its flag; Kyle is portrayed as a warrior saint and a martyr, willing to sacrifice everything for his god, his country, and to ‘protect the sheep from the wolves.’ Meanwhile, the Iraqi people are depicted as monsters capable of inhuman brutality, and are consistently referred to as ‘savages.’ It’s an imbalance that many (including myself) have found uncomfortable, and even morally offensive.
Personal politics aside, American Sniper plays like a more Hollywood Hurt Locker. But where Bigelow’s thriller was a tour-de-force of tension and electric performances, Eastwood seems too concerned with canonising his subject to construct a decent film. Writing and direction are functional, never spectacular, and the only scene imbued with any real sense of tension gets spunked in the first five minutes (and the trailer).
Bradley Cooper’s Oscar-nominated performance is likewise adequate, but feels restricted, perhaps by the writing, perhaps by the direction, or perhaps by the weight of trying to turn ‘The Legend’ into a man. It’s an unenviable task, but Cooper seems to have played safe with it. More surprising is Sienna Miller’s sensitive turn as Kyle’s wife; her tragic transformation from hard-drinking heartbreaker to tortured single mother is the most emotionally engaging aspect of the film.
But this is very much Kyle’s movie, and is far too precious with his memory, and too obvious in its agenda to ever truly convince. His death is blacked out to a one-line elegy, presumably in a bid to preserve the man’s dignity, but by then it’s too late for tact. The credits roll over a barrage of American flags.
‘Murica, fuck yeah.
Arrives On Blu-Ray ™, DVD & Limited Edition Steelbook On 1st June
Available On Digital HD From 18th May
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