(US - 2014)
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Written by Jason Hart. Cast: Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Luke Grimes, Sammy Sheik, Cory Hardrict, Sam Jaeger, Kyle Gallner, Keir O'Donnell, Jake McDorman, Mido Hamada, Reynaldo Gallegos, Kevin Lacz, Ayman Samman, Ben Reed, Marnette Patterson. (R, 132 mins)
Clint Eastwood stops just short of crafting AMERICAN SNIPER as a hagiography of Iraq War hero Chris Kyle, whose 160 confirmed kills have him credited as the most lethal sniper in US military history. Kyle was killed at the age of 38 at a shooting range in 2013 by a fellow vet suffering from PTSD, but since the publication of his memoir in 2012 up to the release of the film, questions have lingered. Questions that Eastwood and screenwriter Jason Hall (PARANOIA) sidestep completely: Kyle's penchant for boasting and braggadocio (he claims to have killed 255 in Iraq instead of 160); his alleged throwdown with someone he calls "Scruff-Face," claiming they were insulting Navy SEALs--Kyle later revealed this person to be Jesse Ventura, who eventually sued Kyle's estate and won, resulting in that chapter being removed from subsequent printings of the book; his claim that he and a buddy drove to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and killed 30 looters; or that he killed two men who were trying to steal his truck. There's no evidence to support these claims, and may just be shit-talk by a war-shattered man who, regardless of how tall his tales may have been, served his country and died trying to help a brother whose pain he knew all too well.
CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, it's possible to simply accept the film on its own terms. But while AMERICAN SNIPER works best in battle, its weakest sections are when Kyle is back home between tours. Sienna Miller is saddled with a stock "military wife" role as Taya Kyle, given little to do other than cry, whether she's calling Chris and listening in horror when he drops the phone in the middle of a firefight, or whether he's at home staring into space and she exclaims--wait for it--"Even when you're here...you're not here!" Miller does what she can with an underwritten role, and she's terrific in their early scenes prior to their marriage when she's feisty and independent. But once she becomes Mrs. Kyle, Taya is just worried, pregnant, or worried and pregnant. Taya Kyle is obviously a strong and intelligent woman, but AMERICAN SNIPER keeps her superficial and uncomplicated. There's a complex film to be made about the many sides of Chris Kyle and there are inconsistencies that need to be addressed, but nobody seemed up to it, almost as if even the appearance of criticizing or questioning him in any way would've diminished his accomplishments and his legacy.
|Chris Kyle (1974-2013)