Thursday Night Movie Club
American Sniper
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Release Date: 16 January 2015

Director: Clint Eastwood
Bradley Cooper
Sienna Miller
Kyle Gallner
Reynaldo Gallegos
Cole Konis
Ben Reed
Elise Robertson
Luke Sunshine
Keir O'Donnell
Marnette Patterson
Kevin Lacz
Jake McDorman
Cory Hardrict
Sammy Sheik
Chris Kyle
Young Chris Kyle
Wayne Kyle
Debbie Kyle
Young Jeff Kyle
Jeff Kyle
'D' / Dandridge
American Sniper movie poster American Sniper movie poster American Sniper movie poster
Bradley Cooper in American SniperDirector Clint Eastwood's American Sniper is an excellent film based on the true-life story of Special Forces sniper Chris Kyle. One problem with the film keeps this from being truly great. The film concentrates almost exclusively on Kyle's military tours and very little is focused on his trials and hardships on his return stateside.

Eastwood is a masterful director. He keeps the pace brisk. The suspense is nerve-wracking where appropriate. The cinematography is fantastic. Unfortunately, the emotional toll Kyle experiences at war and at home are glossed over. The emotional conflicts are there. Their resolutions are not.

American Sniper belongs exclusively to actor Bradley Cooper to carry. Cooper is excellent with the limited material he is given. He handles the war scenes efficiently. His emotional outbursts are genuine and help the audience sympathize with Kyle.

Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is a young man without a future who convinces himself he has a future as a rodeo bronco rider eking out a meager existence. His girlfriend cheats on him because she sees through his facade.

After the September 11 terror attacks on the World Trade Center towers, Kyle sees a new noble purpose for his life. He truly wants to protect America from all enemies. He enlists in the Special Services where he excels in marksmanship. That is when his mind is focused.

Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller in American SniperKyle is having trouble on the range. As his drill instructor says, Kyle is hitting nothing but air. Kyle refocuses and shoots a rattle snake that no one knew was out there. Clearly Kyle has the skills and the eye sight to be an excellent sniper.

Kyle is distracted by Taya (Sienna Miller) whom he meets in a bar. Taya wants nothing to do with military men. Kyle is a gentleman and respects her wishes to be left alone. Taya was not expecting this from a "military" man. She is intrigued by him. They engage in a friendly game. She can ask Kyle anything she wants. However, Taya has to drink a shot for every question asked. The night, obviously, ends in disaster. Taya asks too many questions for her own well being.

Kyle's life goes on a whirlwind ride. He and Taya fall in love. They get married. Taya gets pregnant. Kyle gets called up for his first tour of duty.

Here is where the script shifts to a straight-forward docudrama. Taya is completely omitted from the story. She is a newlywed. She is pregnant. Her husband and father of their child-to-be disappears from her life. The couple has barely started their relationship when Kyle is gone! Taya is left to fend for herself... alone. How can Kyle's life be accurately told by eliminating Taya from his story?

Kyle is introduced to the rigors of war on his first mission. He is assigned to a rooftop where his job is to scope out and eliminate any and all threats to the forces on the streets below.

Bradley Cooper in American SniperEastwood and Cooper excellently portray Kyle's dilemma when a woman and child exit a building. She hands the boy a grenade. Why did she hand the boy the grenade? What are they planning to do with it? Are they going to throw the grenade at the troops or are they going to peacefully surrender the device to the troops. Kyle has no way of knowing. The call to take the shot is his alone.

As Kyle frantically tries to get confirmation, Cooper is great. Cooper doesn't say much. There is no goofy "voice-over". Eastwood limits the shot selection to a close-up of Cooper's face as he looks through his sniper scope and Kyle's view of the woman and boy through the scope. Kyle's conflict is clearly understood for him and the audience. What would anyone do in this situation where a split second stands between life and death for the mother, the boy, and the troops?

Kyle waits a half second too long. He shoots the boy. He barely shoots the mother in time. She is able to throw the grenade at the troops but the grenade falls short of the target. Kyle learns a valuable lesson.

Kyle spends his days shooting all threats on the streets below. He quickly racks up a sizeable body count.

Sienna Miller in American SniperEastwood, Cooper and Miller nail a pivotal sequence. Kyle and Taya are calmly chatting on a satellite phone while Kyle is on a mission. Suddenly, all hell breaks loose around Kyle. All Taya hears is guns firing and men screaming. Kyle drops the phone and fights for his life against an unseen sniper. Eastwood cuts between the two locations. Taya's panic grows. The chaos on the streets grows. (Strangely, both scenes are filmed during daylight hours... go figure!)

Cooper is excellent showing the changes to Kyle as the years pass. Before the war, Kyle is charismatic and outgoing. After each succeeding tour, Kyle becomes quieter and quieter. Taya wants him to talk. She wants to understand and help him. Kyle has no desire to revisit his past missions.

Cooper is very adept depicting Kyle's growing split personality. While deployed, Kyle is efficient. He thinks clearly. He is organized. His performance is exemplary. At home, Kyle is lost, dysfunctional. He cannot escape the war. He sits at home watching a blank television set but he is lost in thought about battles. When he watches actual programming, he watches live feeds from the front. Kyle prefers to sit at home and "relax". He has no desire to associate with anyone, including his wife.

Bradley Cooper in American SniperAs the war progresses and Kyle returns to more tours of duty, events of the war gradually worsen for Kyle. On his first tour, only enemy targets are killed. By his fourth tour, only one man remains from is original deployment. One by one, Kyle is losing the only friends he has.

Kyle has had enough. He resigns and heads home. But the war follows him. Kyle's flight home has more dead soldiers onboard than living soldiers. What goes through a man's mind on an eighteen hour or so flight stateside? Eastwood and the scriptwriters avoid this question.

The final truly emotional scene is painful yet poignant. Kyle sits alone in a bar drinking a beer. Cooper's performance makes it clear Kyle has no idea what to do. Kyle is completely lost. His world has been reduced to a glass of beer. Nothing else exists.

A phone call from Taya pulls Kyle out of the abyss. Sienna Miller is fantastic. Taya is shocked, amazed and confused to learn Kyle is not only stateside but his is in a bar only a short distance from her. Miller slowly allows Taya's anger to build but keeps Taya's emotions from boiling over. Taya understands. She tells Kyle to come home. She knows he will come home to her... when he is ready. She gives him the time he needs.

Although the film isn't technically over at this point, Eastwood flies through the final chapter in Kyle's life. Kyle is talking to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist asks questions. Kyle answers them by-the-book. Cooper confuses the issue. Cooper delivers Kyle's lines. Does Kyle truly believe what his mouth is spewing out or is he merely telling the doctor what the doctor wants to hear?

Bradley Cooper in American SniperThe very ending of the film is when Eastwood and the screenwriters fail. Kyle's readjustment into civilian life, his relationship with his wife and children comes too quickly, too easily. Kyle has one or two brief moments of fear and panic. That's all. Kyle begins helping out wounded soldiers. His life is a sunny picture of happiness and bliss. Then the movie ends!

Did the budget dry up? Was the film getting too long? Was a conscious decision made to quickly fly through Kyle's final chapter? American Sniper was a great film until the simplified conclusion. The film ultimately falls short.