mon 20/05/2024

American Sniper | reviews, news & interviews

American Sniper

American Sniper

Clint gives a patriot super-soldier's view of Iraq, in a leanly effective combat film

Killshot: Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) at work

First there’s an “Allahu Akbar”, then an American tank’s rumble and clank. It’s an ominous and wearying start, the sound of Islam and invasion intermingled in the Iraq War, a violent conflict that today simply expands. When director Clint Eastwood lets us see, too, we’re by the treads of the tank, then within seconds we’re on a rooftop with Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), who spots a woman in a hijab with her child. They have a grenade, and he lines them in his crosshairs. Cut.

American Sniper is a leanly muscular film, reviving Eastwood’s best qualities as a director after several worthy duds. It stars an equally muscular, bulked-up Cooper as Kyle, the US military’s deadliest sniper, who killed 160 Iraqis during around 1,000 days of warfare. As counterpoint, his life back home with his new wife Taya (Sienna Miller, pictured below with Cooper) and two children becomes strained, as she realises much of him isn’t there, but remains combat-ready for his Navy SEAL comrades, who matter to him more than anyone.

As a faithful adaptation of Kyle’s autobiography, this is a necessarily right-wing film, reflecting the life of an unquestioning patriot-soldier. Iraq here is the cleanly moral conflict of Neocon pipe-dreams, in which every woman really does have a bomb in her hijab, and cities are evacuated kill-zones, where every rousted family home deserves what it gets. This tallies with the blunter book, in which Kyle never doubts a kill, doesn’t “give a fuck” about Iraq or Iraqis, sees his mission aim as killing “savages” not reconstruction or winning hearts and minds, and chafes at any restrictions on his ability to do so. He’s a lot less likeable when not being played by Bradley Cooper. He is also, plainly, stunningly good at his job.

Jason Hall’s excellent screenplay shades in some doubt: a letter home read at its SEAL writer’s funeral by his mother, mentioning a “failed crusade” before tears and the fusillade cut it off; or an incident in the book where Kyle watches a young Iraqi boy lift a grenade-launcher, which the boy considers firing here, with a determination you might wonder at.

But Kyle doesn’t doubt. And American Sniper follows his orders, into relentless combat. Spielberg meant to direct this (a cooked-up duel with an insurgent sniper is partly his doing), and you can imagine the Private Ryan-style jittery swirls of camera and CGI palette which would have fallen on his Iraq. Eastwood and his long-time cameraman Tom Stern instead shoot very simply, with little shaky “realism” and almost no emotive music. We’re close-up, on rooftops and in alleys, and all you hear is ear-ringing gunfire. It seems like a film that would give a veteran flashbacks. When Kyle’s outnumbered unit are extracted during an obliterating sandstorm, it has the adrenalin of nightmare. The weariness of Kyle’s repetitive killing is also clear, and carried inside Cooper’s heavy body and smiling face, until he movingly cracks (Cooper pictured showing the strain, above).

American Sniper looks set to be the first hit Iraq film in the US, after all the damn liberal ones flopped. You may not call Kyle a hero, and believe he and Eastwood are fighting the wrong war. But this is a film of Zen-balanced emotional weight (about Kyle’s family, not the “savages”), and a combat movie which would make the genre’s master Sam Fuller proud.

Overleaf: watch the trailer for American Sniper

An extraction during an obliterating sandstorm has the adrenalin of nightmare


Editor Rating: 
Average: 3 (1 vote)

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A trult disgusting film. And people wonder why there's jihad when the USA celebrates murder.

I actually hoped the Americans would all be killed. They're the terrorists and war mongeres

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