American Sniper, based on the life of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle, is an unusual film in that it's a war movie that's not really about war.  Instead, the movie focuses on the effects of war on the soldiers who fight -- even when successful.

Bradley Cooper portrays Chris Kyle.  Initially, Kyle is a simple good ol' boy from Texas who wants to be a cowboy.  But when Americans are killed overseas, Kyle responds by joining the military, passing the amazingly hard Navy SEAL training, and becoming a sniper so skilled in Iraq that his comrades nickname him "the Legend."  And along the way, he woos, marries, and raises a family with Taya (Sienna Miller).
But it all takes a huge toll on Kyle, who went back to Iraq for tour after tour.  Taya fears that when Kyle is away he'll be killed, and when he's home that he's suffering from the horrors of war and a desire to return and keep fighting.  In Iraq, Kyle can't stay immune to the difficulties of  killing people through a scope, or the brutality he sees from the terrorists he fights.  And it's pretty clear that his military life has a huge impact on his family and himself.

Director Clint Eastwood, as he's done in other films, passes on the heroism and glorification of violence to tackle the deeper impact of battle on individuals.  American Sniper is very apolitical, skipping questions about the causes or need for the Iraq war and instead focusing on the lives of the soldiers and the family they have back home.  Bradley Cooper delivers another terrific performance, making Chris Kyle heroic and human at the same time.  Apart from him, Sienna Miller's Taya is the only really developed character in the movie.  A duel between Kyle and an equally-skilled Iraqi sniper feels a little tacked on, but American Sniper is a well done movie: exciting, thoughtful, and very attune to the lives of those who see combat.

Overall grade: A-
Reviewed by James Lynch

No comments: