Credited as the most lethal sniper in U.S military history, with over 160 confirmed kills, Chris Kyle is the subject at the centre of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. It details how he went from wanting to be a bull-riding cowboy to a Navy Seal and follows him over the course of his four tours in Iraq, exploring the mental and emotional toll war can take on a soldier and his family. This is no Hurt Locker though and Eastwood’s attempts at delving deeper into the psyche of Kyle, falls at the wayside in favour for a more “Hollywood’ friendly war film. Having gained so much attention this award season, some of which highly controversial, American Sniper looked like it could have been a winner for me, especially after boasting such a tense trailer that in itself felt like a film. However, I can’t help but feel let down and a little outraged that this has garnered as much praise as it has. What Clint Eastwood and writer Jason Hall have achieved with American Sniper, is a series of well engineered set pieces that manage to both be tense and thrilling, none the least the films final action sequence which sees a gunfight in the midst of an incoming sand storm. That’s it though and despite boasting several intense moments of battle, American Sniper offers little more than just that.
The mental turmoil of war is touched upon often although never to the extent that I would have liked, but the biggest issue that I take with the film is that it’s a blatant piece of American propaganda and therefore just as dangerous as the films main subject himself. I know the clue is in the films title and even the poster which sees Bradley Cooper stand with an American flag, but I wasn’t expecting the levels of biased that American Sniper reaches. When asked why he wants to fight in the Navy Seals, he answers with “Because America is the greatest country in the world, and I’ll do whatever I can to protect it”. Cue cheers and applause from cinema goers everywhere in America and countless nominations from the academy over something more politically trying. This is just the start of the glorification of not just America, but war too, with an infantile portrayal of the overly macho Seal’s who just want to kill the baddies (or savages as they are refereed to here), without any real sense of moral guilt.
Regardless of whether this is Eastwood portraying the story as it actually happened, there’s a feeling of political manipulation that I was unable to shake during the whole time, wondering where the questions about war were and all the while thinking “well this is the longest advertisement for enlisting in the navy seals that I’ve ever seen”. The portrayal of the Iraqi citizens is absent, except for the frankly disgusting and offensive stereotypes that feel long outdated. In a way, American Sniper reminded me of last years Lone Survivor, another true story about a group of Navy Seals who ended up fighting for their lives in Afghanistan after cutting loose a couple of farmers who stumbled upon their mission. Despite a few issues, Lone Survivor did a great job of dealing with the Seals moral quandary as to whether or not to let their captives go or kill them, and also represented Muslims in a much better light than Sniper does. Yet, it got nowhere near as much attention or praise as this, praise which is wholly undeserved and steeped in political prejudice. Does it deserve any awards? Not one and all it really is is a glorified action film with some nice directorial touches from Clint Eastwood. Other than that though, American Sniper is a pro-war, pro-American advertisement which misses the mark completely.
Image credit to http://www.impawards.com