“American Sniper” is a hard movie to watch and an even harder movie to review.
Many have used the film as a weapon in their political war games, taking shots at the film for glorifying a supposedly brutish assassin, or taking shots at detractors for disrespecting a supposed American hero.
“American Sniper” does not fit well with the extreme opinions on either side. Careful viewers will note that while it is a generally positive portrayal of Chris Kyle, a U.S. sniper during the Iraq War, it is not a ringing endorsement of his actions, and especially not of the war he participated in.
Kyle and his brothers in arms are often portrayed like superheroes, displaying the logo of Marvel’s “The Punisher” on their uniforms and vehicles. As a result it is easy to forget that director Clint Eastwood is not making the same comparison. He intends to show us how these men thought of themselves.
The superhero mentality is often a boon on their missions, allowing them the confidence to get the job done, but it is also a bane that makes them foolhardy. At times, Kyle puts himself and his men in unnecessary danger because of it.
The film, and particularly Bradley Cooper’s amazing performance, does a great job of subtly portraying the negative impact of soldier life, but the negative effects might even be too subtle. I felt as though every other person in the theater was someone’s racist grandpa missing the point, and watching Chris Kyle in the same way they would watch Rambo.
This is a movie about a man with an obsession with being a hero which causes him to lose his humanity. Why then were there people around me who were cheering for him to continue loosing said humanity? If this was meant to make people think about the negative toll war takes on soldiers, it may have failed half of its audience by not making a more definitive point.
Nevertheless, “American Sniper” is entertaining and thoughtful cinema for those willing to look deeper than the blind patriotic veneer. The best part is deciding how you feel about the questions it presents. It is also Bradley Cooper’s second best performance of 2014, and gets seven Rocket Raccoons out of 10.