With six Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, American Sniper is the story of US Navy SEAL Chris Kyle. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the biopic is based on Kyle’s autobiography as the most lethal sniper in US military history, providing a different take on war dramas.
American Sniper stars Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, who give fantastic performances while looking eerily similar to Chris and wife Taya Kyle. Rather than a dishonest depiction of wartime action, this is a truly human story showcasing the reasons why people go to war, and how hard it can be for them to come home again.
American Sniper does a superb job in illustrating the public reactions to the early military action in Iraq and Afghanistan in post-9/11 America. The aura of hostility and conflict are successfully captured and represented in a film that enables these issues to reemerge to the foreground of the wider public sphere.
This film may be the closest view a civilian is ever likely to get
Military families in particular are going to be able to relate, not only to Chris Kyle’s justifications for enlisting, but also to Taya’s concern for how war is affecting her husband. More so than any other war film, this one clearly encapsulates to civilian cinemagoers just why it is that PTSD is such a prevalent condition amongst military personnel.
Though drama helms the forefront, there is also quite a bit of action, with much of the drama unfolding in an active war zone, a balanced effectively achieved by Eastwood. As is somewhat typical in films featuring a “good guy” sniper, there is an enemy sniper set up as a threat and rival. The violence is not gratuitous or overly gory, which makes it hit all the harsher. The general colour palette of the film is very muted, and any bloodshed stands out against the backdrop.
It must be said though, that American Sniper is emotionally draining to watch. Seeing the transition from Kyle’s pre-war life to how he is on active duty and the effects it has on his family and mental health is a challenge to endure, even as a mere onlooker to these very real events. Knowing how the story ends is not even any insulation against seeing the trauma racked up by the SEALs and Marines.
It’s a tense watch as, with every bullet, the safe return of any character is not guaranteed. Fantastic sound design and mixing only underlines both sides of this dichotomy, as the chaotic sounds of war spill over into Kyle’s civilian life via audible flashbacks that are uncomfortable in their believability.
Having never served in the military or suffered from PTSD myself, I can only assume the levels of accuracy in the film are as high as reported. There was at least one Navy SEAL technical advisor involved in the making of American Sniper, and from what friends and relatives have said about their training and experiences in the armed forces, it would seem that the film does give a good insight into what combat is like.
American Sniper is a highly commendable and recommendable piece of cinema for anyone with friends or family members who have served in the military, or are considering serving themselves. This film may be the closest view a civilian is ever likely to get, and for this reason, is more than deserving of its praise.
A. F. Dean