A Surreal Look at the Messiness of War: American Sniper Movie Review

Written by Mark Kaelin

This film captures how war changes a man. Here’s Mark W. Kaelin with his American Sniper movie review. Deep dive.

aNewDomain — War is hell. War is messy, chaotic and at times surreal. War changes people — it damages people both physically and psychologically. That axiom, thematically speaking, is featured in just about every movie made on the topic of war. And the film “American Sniper,” starring Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller, produced and directed by Clint Eastwood, is no exception.

The protagonist in “American Sniper,” Chris Kyle, was a Navy Seal who wrote an autobiography of his experiences in Iraq. His autobiography is the basis of the movie. Kyle’s mission was to use his sniper skills to protect his fellow soldiers while they were on patrol looking for the enemy.

The mission was both a passion and a burden, and it took its toll on his psyche and his relationship with his family.

AMERICAN SNIPER movie review

Three Kinds of People

At the beginning of the movie we see Kyle and his younger brother getting a lesson from their father about life. He explains that there are three kinds of people in the world: sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Sheep are weak and are preyed on by the wolves. Sheepdogs protect the sheep and are willing to confront the wolf. The father wants his sons to be sheepdogs.

It’s a simple explanation of human nature to be sure, but it does a great job of summarizing the overall life philosophy of Kyle and why he feels so compelled to risk his marriage and his future happiness to return to Iraq for four tours of duty. He is compelled to protect his fellow warriors and is prepared to risk his life in that pursuit.

This is the crux of the film.

Making a Movie

“American Sniper,” as directed by Clint Eastwood, is masterfully crafted. Eastwood’s direction is simple and straightforward. The focus of the film is on the microcosm of the sniper and the squads he is tasked with protecting. There is no big-picture strategy and no politics — there is only the mission at hand, which is often as simple as “search these buildings.”

The action scenes are chaotic and intense and often graphic. You will find it difficult to keep track of who is shooting at whom, at where the firing is coming from and at what exactly each soldier is trying to accomplish besides staying alive. Obviously, this confusion is part of the director’s plan.

The acting of Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller is absolutely fantastic. Their characters are based on real people, and they both do a great job of making you feel like that is what you are viewing — real people dealing with real problems and real situations. These are complex characters that express themselves in subtle ways, which often don’t involve speaking. Both actors are given the opportunity to shine under Eastwood’s direction.

american sniper movie review: actors bradley cooper sienna miller

Triumph and Tragedy

American Sniper is a really good movie about the ravages of war and the toll it takes on those who fight it and those that wait for their fighters to return. Like “The Hurt Locker,” another movie about war in Iraq, “American Sniper” contemplates how difficult it can be for a soldier to leave the war behind both physically and mentally. Being stateside and home is not the same thing as being out of Iraq.

“American Sniper” is rated R and that rating is well earned and well deserved. This is not a movie for small children and some squeamish adults, I would imagine. However, the Academy Award nomination is legitimate, and I would recommend seeing “American Sniper sooner rather than later.

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All Art Credits: Mark Kaelin courtesy of 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc.