American Sniper (2014)

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: if you tried comparing Chris Kyle to the sniper from Saving Private Ryan.

Take a Drink: for each sniper shot

Take a Drink: each time someone shouts “hoorah!”

Do a Shot: because our Military works so damn hard.

Community Review

How many beers do you recommend for this movie?
1 Beer! A Toast! Great Movie!2 Beers! Good Movie!3 Beers! Okay Movie!4 Beers! Mediocre Movie!5 Beers! Awful Movie!6-Pack! Bad movie! Do not be Sober!

Loading...

Movie Review

By: Bill Arceneaux (Two Beers) –

“Get your f___ing hand off me!” he quietly yelled at his partner, only wanting to congratulate. Chris Kyle, one of the most accomplished snipers in American military history, had just completed his first kills: a woman and child, both trying to attack a convoy. “I was just doing my job” he would say, modestly, when called a hero by many. He would have many a snipe under his belt after multiple tours of duty, even a bounty on his head in Iraq. He was THAT good.

“I think I’m ready to come home.” he tells his wife, who is continents away. Chris Kyle, just prior to making that call, had just completed his climatic and most difficult kill: an enemy sniper, sought for years. He wasn’t supposed to make that shot, A) Being ordered not to do it and B) The target being too far away. But he took it, finishing off the demon yin to his fighting yang.

From “Get your f___ing hand off me!” to “I’m ready to come home”. One man’s life work, one man’s conflict, one man haunted – no longer with a rifle to fight back with.

A Toast

I had read many a critic’s tweet regarding American Sniper. How it was awful and EVEN inappropriate. This didn’t make sense to me; as conservative as Clint Eastwood is, one thing he is NOT is awfully inappropriate. Typically, his films have controlled direction and thoughtful/meditative moments throughout. It’s why I thought he would’ve been perfect for Man of Steel.

image001

I stand by my Superman recommendation.

These negative comments reminded me of the Zero Dark Thirty backlash, where everyone felt the film was condoning torture in gathering information. Personally, I felt those assertions were dead wrong, and mostly based on the surface visuals of the controversial torture sequences, and not the subtext beneath. Perhaps their hindsight will be 20/20.

American Sniper is, by no means, as “shocking” as ZD30. Unless, a story told from an American’s point of view of war is “shocking” nowadays. Pro Bush Era propaganda this is NOT.

On the whole, think of this as Clint Eastwood’s Rescue Dawn; a big Hollywood movie based on one man’s extraordinary story. Of course, both films are different – Clint isn’t interested in the relationship that nature has on a person’s mental and emotional states. What is of interest here are the questions and thoughts that Chris Kyle’s tale inspires. Questions on the label of hero, the treating of going to war as some sort of offshore job and how you never really leave it all behind.

We see Bradley Cooper perform Chris as a man taught to defend his own, to fight against bullies and then some. His blood boils when he sees a U.S. embassy destroyed on TV, and begins to prep for a fight when witness to 9/11. He carries the horrors he sees and inflicts with him, but always behind a disguise of modest calm. He’d rather not talk about it when home, but it clearly affects him. Still, he remains armed and ready when fighting, and loving and friendly when over here. In a way, he’s always working a job, whether it’s behind a rifle or in his backyard playing with his children. It’s his job to protect his brothers in arms from the enemy and his family and friends from what he’s seen and done.

Sometimes chilling in execution (no pun intended), sometimes zen like in its approach, American Sniper works as almost a Hurt Locker redux.

image002

You BETTER be zen at this moment.

Beer Two

ALMOST is key, of course.

While it does inspire some thoughts, feeling and curiosity, the film fails to reach the levels it aspires for. More often than not, American Sniper avoids providing a clear agenda, a clear thesis. This is both a plus and a minus. A plus because it leaves the audience with the goal of figuring out where they stand, a minus because too many a superficial (or surface level) element is left unexplored.

Is it a thrilling and action packed biopic or a thoughtful tale about a man and his life? The unexplored or hastily navigated points on morals, internal conflict and such are many a time left to the wayside in favor of tear-jerking scenes and easy/exploitative moments meant to pull an immediate reaction out of us, not to provoke long term discussion and thought.

A shame, but honestly, it’s a mild ding. Still, grab your mug and take a chug.

Verdict

Forget what you’ve read or avoid reading reviews before viewing; American Sniper is the well-crafted work of a director who has much experience to share, and features the deservedly lauded performance of an actor who never fails to impress. Where the brain and the heart meet, this movie sits.

image003

a2Beers

About Bill Arceneaux

Independent film critic from New Orleans and member of the Southeastern Film Critics Association (SEFCA).

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.