American Sniper

Brave Biopic or Patriotic Propaganda?

A hasty invite to watch a 2015 film in the new and shiny cinema after a long week of coursework and interview preparation is bound to smack a smile on my face. A great way to start the weekend on a high-note, especially the film that’s making the mad grabs at the Oscar nominations: American Sniper.

As the two of us sat down in our slightly low seats, I was informed that Bradley Cooper would be playing a real US sniper. Interesting… that’s two “true story” films I’ve reviewed in a row. I assure you now, I’m making the next post as fictional as possible (cryptic clue), but at the time, I just hoped I wasn’t in for another slow The Railway Man all over again.
The deadliest sniper the US ever had is Chris Kyle. 160 confirmed kills out of 255 probable ones. This is the story of his time in the Iraq War.

Firstly, who else was confused by the casting of Bradley Cooper as main? While talented, comical, and named “Sexiest Man ALive) in People magazine, 2011, can he pull off a brawny-cowboy-gone-SEAL in this darker war-drama? Why yes. Yes he can.

Not only does his Texan drawl flow off his tongue, Mr. Cooper must have done some serious body work before shooting. The arsenal of snipers aren’t the only set of guns he’s showing, yet his portrayal needed some finish on the corners. His performance is almost flawless, yet his character goes through a torrent of emotions, and a bridge between them wouldn’t have gone amiss.

So the main character is good. We’ve got that sorted. To get to my next point quickly: everything else is good. I can see the Oscar nominations are as well-placed as any. Sound editing, sound mixing, screenplay, film editing, best actor… at the end of the film, I was in stunned silence, and I was happy with what I watched: a tense war-drama that juggled action, the horrors of war, and human emotion before the audience.

But here are my questions: what was the film’s message? And was this film an accurate portrayal of Chris Kyle’s life? The film was fantastic, but could I faintly hear in the back of my mind the Star-Spangled Banner hauling up the Stars and Stripes?

Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a whine about the patriots of America. I’m very patriotic of the UK, and I love America. Something from across the pond draws me in like a moth next to the Hollywood sign at night. But anyway, it doesn’t matter. This post is about the film, not about who’s wearing Union Jack underwear.

Chris Kyle was an American legend, but did this film glorify him? In the end, I knew that he would end up making amends with his family, and I was slightly annoyed how his previous problems of adjusting into civilian life were resolved so quickly, but you could see he was not the perfect man. He had done questionable things during the war, and he almost loses everything over his duty. His lack of control to suppress the efficient marksman inside is and interesting dynamic.

I’m not going to go down a pacifist road on was the war right, or what Chris did was right, but there’s a point when you realise that Clint Eastwood (director who took the reins from Spielberg) made us almost always look through Chris’ eyes. Spielberg may have put more emphasis on the enemy sniper tracking Chris down, and I feel that Eastwood may have stuck too closely to the perfect American soldier for the film to breathe and show us other aspects of Chris’ life, like the other sides of war.


I would say what I said before: “a tense war-drama that juggled action, the horrors of war and human emotion before the audience….” HOWEVER, a juggling act that may have been just a show, hiding the true Chris Kyle behind an all-American smile and smoking-hot guns. I’ll let you decide what type of guns I’m talking about.