“American Sniper” Tough, Unsettling
By Skip Sheffield
It is hard to “like” “American Sniper.” It is about sharpshooter Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who was for all purposes a killing machine, ravaging Iraq and its people.
Chris Kyle is credited with at least 160 verified kills, and maybe as many as 250 or more.
Kyle wrote about his experiences of four tours of Iraq in a best-selling 2012 memoir. Jason Hall (“Paranoia”) adapted the book for the screen and Clint Eastwood directs.
It is disconcerting to see someone kill human beings so dispassionately, as if they were targets in a shooting gallery, not living people. That Chris Kyle is played by dreamy, blue-eyed Bradley Cooper makes the effect even more disconcerting.
The fact is war is Hell, and it is Hell on the soldiers who must fight. As Kyle’s legend as a SEAL sharpshooter grew, he came to be known as “Legend.” The flip side of this is it is difficult to return to normal civilian life. In Kyle’s case that was Texas (figures), where guns are as normal as apple pie.
The Iraq was scenes are relentless and devastating. You just know some innocent bystanders were taken along with Al Qaeda insurgents. As Kyle became more desensitized by his deadly target practice, he found it more difficult to unwind to his loyal wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and his adoring children. So despite Taya’s pleading, he kept returning to the hellish cauldron of Iraq.
I get it Clint. While it celebrates the most effective sniper in U.S. military history, this is really an anti-war film. It does not have a happy ending, and neither does the endless Iraq War, so recklessly and foolishly started in the first place. Perhaps Eastwood is trying to make amends for his remorseless “Man With No Name” character. Whatever the reason, this is a bitter, unsettling movie and an amazing performance by pretty boy Bradley Cooper. We will never think off him the same again.