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Film Review: Trigger happy

It’s almost impossible to make a modern war film without addressing how conflict and violence affects both the mind and military families.


By Jean-Pierre Mestanza

Saturday 31 January 2015, 11:00AM


Film: American Sniper

Starring: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller

Director: Clint Eastwood

4 STARS

We can sit here and say that American Sniper is a great portrayal of a soldier’s psyche, a sort of treatise on the mental torment that one goes through when violence and evil is lurking everywhere at all times.

But that would only be half right.

American Sniper, as much as it seems to champion the reasons for going to war (history be damned), goes a bit further than showcasing what happens to soldier’s and their families. The film also cuts into the folly of revenge and guilt.

While based on The New York Times best-selling autobiography of real life American Navy S.E.A.L. Chris Kyle, the film takes many liberties with the book’s narrative to make a compelling story. It wouldn’t be such a big deal, if we weren’t talking about the most important international conflict of the last decade.

The film suggests that Kyle, a Texan, enlisted in the U.S. Navy after seeing the 1998 U.S. embassy bombings. The audience sees Kyle before, during and after the war as his family chugs along virtually without him. During his time in the military, Kyle acquires the nickname “legend” after a particularly good day of killing insurgents. He eventually amasses 160 confirmed kills making him the most accomplished marksman in American military history.

As a film character, Kyle is seemingly even-keeled for much of it but a slow building hubris begins to form, attributed to his “legend” moniker. It’s war, and soldiers eventually die, but Kyle deals with revenge on his own terms which doesn’t exactly put him in an easy position with his camrades everytime, given that his actions have the potential to put his fellow soldiers in peril.

But being a sniper is a heavy burden, since he has to make calls on the fly and he’s usually the only one with a clear view of the entire battlefield.

American Sniper is well-edited with many scenes that carry intercutting shots that, while sometimes disjointed, moves the narrative along by essentially killing two birds with one stone – serenity and violence goes back-and-forth with ease.

Director Clint Eastwood has done a fantastic job of creating a character piece that makes Kyle seem like a superhero, only to humanise him with bits of family strife. Kyle struggles to cope with the mental anguish and his family suffers for it.

On the flipside, however, this is a film about a killer who is lionised for helping eliminate “the other”. There’s a blind sense of reverance for the military and its actions. There’s also the accusations that Kyle made up parts of several tales that occurred in the book (and subsequently, the film).

Still, as an audience member willing to pay for popcorn and a movie ticket, American Sniper is an entertaining war film that deserves several viewings.


American Sniper

Starring:
Bradley Cooper
and Sienna Miller
Director:
Clint Eastwood
Running time:
133 minutes

Four Stars

 

 

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