Film review: American Sniper

Joseph Austin gives his verdict on American Sniper
Joseph Austin gives his verdict on American Sniper

Joseph Austin reviews the divisive multi-Oscar-nominated film American Sniper.

A lot has been said about Clint Eastwood’s latest film, which is nominated for six Oscars including best picture and best actor.

As well as “gripping”, “purposeful” and “entertaining,” one critic hailed the biopic which tells the story of former US navy Seal Chris Kyle as “heart-breaking and brave”.

Another has desvribed it as “a film that isn’t merely a war movie – it’s a story of courage, conviction, camaraderie and caring”.

Yet many have slammed the film, starring Bradley Cooper as the most deadly sniper in US military history, for its skewed depiction of the Iraq war, encouraging “pro-war sentiments,” and claiming that the movie is essentially “a propaganda film”.

Social media has inevitably had its say on the film, most notably in a tweet from actor Seth Rogen who said it reminded him of the Nazi propaganda film shown at the end of Quentin Tarantino’s Inglorious Basterds.

He later apologised.

Mr Eastwood himself has even come out in defence of his film, explaining that American Sniper goes as far as to make an anti-war statement, and has “nothing to do” with any politics of any kind.

Divided opinions aside, the film took a whopping $89m (£59m) in its opening weekend Stateside, and grossed a further $64m (£43m) in its second weekend.

But does it live up to the hype?

In all honesty – no.

Eastwood’s film is certainly entertaining and absorbing; his no-nonsense filmmaking, as well as Cooper’s brilliantly intense performance, undoubtedly deserves praise.

Now a three-time Oscar nominee, Cooper plays Kyle as a man driven by duty, but ultimately torn between his family and his brothers in arms.

However, you don’t need to be looking down the scope of a rifle to see what’s wrong with American Sniper.

Apart from its unintentional portrayal of all Iraqi people as ‘bad guys,’ and completely ignoring the more controversial aspects of Kyle’s life (widely publicised in his book of the same name), this ‘true’ story is only a half-truth.

The film only touches on Kyle’s imperfections and flaws, highlighted best when he attacks a dog at a family barbecue.

Yes, he’s damaged from war, but we never see him truly exposed emotionally.

Instead Eastwood opts to paint him as the ultimate hero – constantly in control, never missing a shot, and always killing the bad guy.

The film suffers due to this lack of insight and, along with its cheesy Wild West-style feud between Kyle and his nemesis (an Olympic Syrian sniper), American Sniper ultimately falls short.

Set to be the highest grossing film of 2014 (having opened in the US on Christmas Day), as well as edging closer to being the highest earning war film of all time, American Sniper is certainly one for the history books.

Though it would be found under the subheading of ‘good film’, not great.