American Sniper review: Despite a brilliant Bradley Cooper, it fails to hit the mark

  • Soumya Srivastava, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 16, 2015 18:14 IST

American Sniper

Clint Eastwood


Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller



War movies are not rare to come by and neither are cinematic masterpieces by director Clint Eastwood. American Sniper, however, could be an aberration in both categories.

Why? Well let’s see. Bradley Cooper is nothing short of perfect in his portrayal of Chris Kyle, a Navy SEAL and ‘America’s deadliest sniper’ who was crowned a national hero. Sienna Miller is terrific as the distraught wife of a soldier who just cannot seem to keep the war and the home apart.

The film’s action sequences are its strength – impactful enough to showcase the perils and monstrosities of war, yet not scarring. A coherent and linear story also ensures the viewers ‘live’ Kyle’s life.

When seen in all these parts, American Sniper seems like a great movie yet when we combine these pieces together, the final picture is pretty underwhelming. It lacks the necessary impact that was deserving of a story of a war hero who was virtually a celebrity back home.

The story has been adapted from Kyle’s autobiography of the same name and traces his journey to hell and back. He is posted in Iraq after the 9/11 attack to fight the terrorist outfit there working for Osama bin Laden. The film has been broken into four parts or ‘tours’, each separated with the breaks he got to visit his home and family. With each tour, he descends deeper into the abyss and the trauma of having seen and experienced war keeps tightening its noose around him.

He is not able to adjust back into civilian life even when he is back home. His wife is scared for him and their family while he is still in denial that he has been affected by the war. Each time he comes home to them, his condition has worsened manifold.

This is where the intention of the movie gets vague. Does he hate the war? Because he couldn’t come to terms with having killed a child and he is always very nervous even in the comfort and security of his home? Or does he love the war? He is at his enthusiastic and chirpy best in the field and around fatal danger. He goes out of his way every time to make sure he is not the one sitting behind while his fellow soldiers risk their lives. One could say that the patriotic elements in the movie often get too over the board to be believable.

The naturally brilliant actor, Bradley Cooper, plays his part to perfection. His bulky body is such a massive change from his older self that it gets hard to believe that he is actually the same guy from The Hangover. He has been nominated for Academy Awards this year in the Best Actor category for this role and let there be no doubt that he does deserve it.

The catharsis of the movie lies in the answer of these questions: Will he ever be able to come back to normal life once the war is over? Will the war ever be over for him? Is it ever possible for any soldier to leave the war behind? And not just the soldier, can his family also make this transition?

American Sniper fails to effectively answer the questions it raises and truth be told, Bradley Cooper’s performance was the only thing that ‘hit the mark’.

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