Obviously, if this movie got such results at the Box Office in the US ($89,269,066 on the opening week-end), it’s because it relates directly to the American people, their values and their current lives. As a society portrait, Clint Eastwood manages to depict a context and a reality with excellent actors. Indeed, he has his way to describe the inside spirit of the US through a district, americans dwellings like in Gran Torino for example.
However, making the adaptation of the true story about a war « hero » suggests a subtile approach. The US intervention in 2003 in Irak, is still a very recent, polemic and open wound. Polemic, is the tone used by the latest movies dealing with this event; “Body of Lies” from Ridley Scott, “Green Zone” avec Matt Damon, “The Hurt Locker” from Kathryn Bigelow or “Zero Dark Thirty”. All of them have an very nuanced angle with characters trapped into a dilemma between being ethical or use a necessary evil. Here, let’s be honest, the question is not really a great deal not to say very detailed. You are focusing on Chris Kyle, a patriotic Texan devoted to the cause. Neither a sheep nor a wolf, you cannot say were he belongs. Could you be completely detached from what you are doing and blindly pull the trigger?
After several missions on the field, it seems impossible. Of course, the question is raised through a particular scene showing the soldier hesitating to shoot a kid who is picking up a rocket. But it remains very flat, without real emotion; quite robotic. Is-that all Clint Eastwood’s intentions? Honestly, this is not very limpid. Yet, this confusing approach is very dangerous when you deal with a war movie, where you can easily fall into a patriotic, militarist and often simplified message… Not mentioning the director’s political preferences. Undeniably, an awkwardness is coming up as the viewer doesn’t know where to stand between the soldiers sacrifice and why&how they are fighting against. Nonetheless, the moment that questions everything is the very end of the movie. When I wasn’t sure of the director’s intentions, everything falls apart at the credits, At this moment, it made me realize, it was (only) about putting on a pedestal the uniform but most of all, obliging me to celebrate a hero who might not have been one… In other words, American Sniper or how to manipulate someone’s achievements into patriotic purposes?
When the content makes me perplex, the form did it too. You are in the heart of the action, immersed into the reality of the field. But I wasn’t impressed byr all that. Bradley Cooper does the job. But as I said upper, his character seriously lacks of nuance and quickly becomes extreme: the good looking Texan boy, the Navy pride thanks to his unbelievable hunting board, a romantic husband and a warm father… What about him in all this? Maybe people see him as a hero, but how does he personally lives the situation? According to his principals, he cannot stand being home when he can help the others on the field… Ego or inconscience, I admit this role becomes completely a character study as it’s difficult to see clearly!
So the screenplay during war sequences is OK. Clint Eastwood has already shown what he can do in” Letters from Iwo Jima” or “Flags of ours Fathers” (much more subtle and intelligent to my opinion). But during the back home sequences, there are some fails, in particular THIS scene when Bradley Cooper holds the baby becomes a WTF (it’s so huge it’s a fake, that it puts you out of the story right away) especially because it comes up in a fighting scene.
Here’s the scene & some reactions…
To conclude, I am not vey enthusiastic about the last Clint Eastwood movie, and believe me, it’s hard to say from me. #fan. His last movie was great by the way “Jersey Boys” (review here). After “Flags of ours Fathers”, it’s hard to believe it is from the same director. To compare, “Lone survivor” from Peter Berg gathers very well the action, a nuanced & interesting angle with intense screenplay & performances. All “American Sniper” lacks, especially to receive an Academy Award!