FlixChatter Review: American Sniper (2014)

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The last time Clint Eastwood tackled a war story he made Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima back to back. The former I thought was a good film but contained too many clichés, while the latter I thought was one of the best war films ever made. I think his latest picture sort of fall in between his last two war films.

Based on the book and life of the late Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US history. The story begins with a flashback of Kyle and young brother being raised by a tough and religious father. He was raised as the typical all American boy – tough, a patriot and never give up. Years later he’s now a grown man and played by the buffed-up Bradley Cooper. He and his brother are still close but his life is not what you call a success. After seeing an American embassy building got blown up on the news in Africa, he decided to wants to fight and protect his country from terrorists. He went down to the local army recruiting office and told the recruiter he wanted to enlist. Since he’s already 30 years old and in pretty good shape, the recruiter suggested he should enlist in the Navy Seals unit. We then got to see a montage of him training with the other Seals recruits.

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Later he meets his future wife Taya (the unrecognizable Sienna Miller) at a bar. They hit it off and later got married. On their wedding day, Kyle’s Seals unit got a call to head over to Middle East. The whole movie was about Kyle’s life on the battlefield and how it affects his personal life once he’s back to the States with his wife and children. The story was told in two tiers, one you see Kyle and his men battled the enemies in the Middle East and the other shows his normal life in the States when he’s back from one of his tours.

I’m not the biggest fan of Bradley Cooper, ever since I saw him in The Hangover movies, I could never see him as anything but a frat boy type. However, he gave quite a strong performance here and displayed so many emotions that I didn’t know he could do. Kyle’s a man who wants to be strong for his family and comrades, but deep down you know he’s a troubled person. He keeps all of his emotions inside and refuses to talk about what he saw and done while in the battlefields. He’s a patriot and won’t question his superiors for the orders they gave him, but when some of his comrades were killed, he may have some doubts about the war itself. Since Kyle is the main character, Cooper appeared in pretty much 99% of the film.

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Unfortunately I wish Eastwood had cast a better actress for female lead, Sienna Miller changed her appearance make herself look more like a normal person but she’s still can’t act. Some of the dramatic scenes with her and Cooper were kind of cringe-worthy. The rest of the cast didn’t really make much of an impression on me because many of them only appeared briefly in the film.

Eastwood has always been a generic director to me but in a good way. What I mean by that was that he never tried to include any trick shots or weir filters in his films and best of all never go for the popular trends in movies. I was afraid he’s going to shoot the battle scenes in those annoying shaky cam and fast editing shots but thankfully he held the cameras steady and we can what’s going on during the action scenes. In fact, he staged some quite intense and exciting battle sequences. He and his editors, Gary Roach and Joel Cox, kept the pace moving quite smoothly. They never linger on scenes that could’ve dragged on. Also, for a war picture I thought it’s going to be quite gory but they didn’t show that much of the gore.

I’ve never read the book that the film was based on and knew only a little bit about the real Chris Kyle so I don’t know how accurate this film was to his life. Jason Hall wrote the screenplay and I thought it’s weird that he actually included some “villains” in the story. In fact, for most of the movie I thought I was watching a movie based on one of Tom Clancy’s novels instead of a real person and events. Since I’ve never read the book, I don’t know if the antagonists were real or were just made up for dramatic purposes.

With a good performance by Cooper and solid direction by Eastwood, I thought this was a good action thriller, but not a great war picture. Again, the inclusion of the villains took me right out of the reality of the story and I thought I was watching something Tom Clancy would write. But the movie did have some great battle sequences and some very intense dramas, I won’t mention it here but it’s definitely not a movie to bring your young children along.

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Have you seen this movie? What did you think?

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33 thoughts on “FlixChatter Review: American Sniper (2014)

  1. Very good performance by Bradley in this. He’s the best thing in the movie, I say. I agree with your appraisal about “Flags…” and “Letters…”, but I’d put “American Sniper” a notch below that pair. Fine review, Ruth.

    1. Hi Michael, sorry this was Ted’s review 🙂 I haven’t seen Clint’s two war films but have been meaning to check those out. So you’re saying this one is even better than the other two? Maybe I should do a Clint Eastwood war-themed film marathon one day.

      1. Sorry, I didn’t see Ted’s byline on this. No, I’m saying Eastwood’s pair of WWII films (especially the stellar Letter From Iwo Jima) are better than this. Thanks for the clarification, Ruth 🙂

      2. You should check out those other two war films Eastwood did Ruth, they’re not gory like other war flicks. Eastwood’s not the kind of director to show too much blood in his films. Both Flags and Letters were more drama. I think Letters for Iwo Jima was quite an accomplishment because it’s a Hollywood produced film that focused on the enemy side. The entire film was told from the Japanese perspective and Ken Wantanabe was excellent as the lead.

        1. I recommend watching ‘Flags’ and ‘Letters’ back-to-back. Like you, I initially thought ‘Flags’ more cliche. Then when ‘Letters’ arrived, which I instantly thought superior, it made me revisit ‘Flags’. It’s much better as a duo piece than a standalone, IMO. Thanks, Ted.

          1. Hi Michael & Ted! I definitely will check both of those out. My hubby and I actually wanted to watch them back-to-back last year so we’ll definitely try to find time for that sometime this year. I’m glad to hear it’s not super violent, as you know I can’t watch brutal war films like Saving Private Ryan. But if it’s more like The Thin Red Line then I can stomach it. Plus I do like Ken Watanabe, esp. when his talents is used properly, not wasted like in stuff like Godzilla! 😀

            1. Yeah, both Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima were quite tame compare to Saving Private Ryan. Of course there were some gruesome scenes but the camera cut away more of the gore stuff. As for Wannabe in Godzilla, he was just a token Asian guy to sell the movie to the Asian market, pretty much a waste of his talent. But I’m sure he got quite a big paycheck since it’s a big production movie.

    2. Hey Michael, I haven’t seen Flags of Our Fathers in a while, maybe I’ll change my mind if I watch it again but currently I think American Sniper sits between Letters and Flags.

  2. Irene McKenna

    Thank you for the excellent, balanced review. It’s interesting to see how the tone of war movies changes from one generation to the next. When I was growing up, in the 70s — with opposition to the war in Vietnam swelling — they had a blatant “war is hell” vibe. Since the 80’s, they’ve been changing, I think.

    The have a positive feeling about Bradley after seeing Silver Linings Playbook. Happily I missed the Hangover franchise. 😀

    1. Hi Irene, yes I agree that war films these days tends to be more balance instead of just us vs. them mentality. Bradley was very good in this film. I enjoyed the Hangover movies but those were just silly fun movies and he didn’t have to do much when it comes to performance.

  3. Ted I’m probably going to see it this week so I’ll let you know what I think then.

    I gotta say I felt the same way about Cooper early on in his career. I just wanted to smash his smug little face but after Silver Linings Playbook, The Place Beyond The Pines and American Hustle he destroyed any previous notion of what I thought of him and his acting. If you haven’t seen those films check ’em out. I think he’s exceptional in them. I can rarely think of an actor who turned me around like he did.

    Bradley, who’s a pretty good impressionist, tells a great story about working with Christopher Walken on Conan. It starts at the 2:10 mark.

    1. Yeah Dave, hopefully you’ll enjoy it, the movie won’t be opening wide till Friday and I didn’t want to give away too much on my review.

      I only saw American Hustle, I wasn’t a fan of the movie but I liked all of the performances by the actors, including Cooper’s.

      I haven’t watched Conan’s show in the long time but thanks for that funny clip!

  4. jackdeth72

    Hi, Ted:

    Clint does not have sterling record when it comes to the portrayal married couples in his war/military films. One look at Mr.and Mrs. “Profile” in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ gives credence. And perhaps, falls back on clichés. Though he does possess a sterling record of selecting casts who are ready and equipped with their “A-Game” before stepping onto a set or scene.

    I’ll forgive Ms. Miler and focus on the thoughts, ideas and execution of scenes with Mr. Cooper. Who appears to be swinging for the fences in the trailers and clips I’ve seen.

    Great heads up, as always!

    1. Hi Jack, yeah Eastwood’s probably not the strongest director when it comes to more dramatic scenes, maybe he’s just not interest in those kind of scenes.

      Hope you’ll enjoy this one when you see it.

  5. Good review Ted. I like Bradley Cooper in these types of roles over movies like The Hangover. To be honest, Clint Eastwood lacks the flair and style I enjoy in other directors, but Letters from Iwo Jima is a really good movie, and I might give American Sniper a shot (no pun intended) :).

    1. Thanks! Yeah Eastwood’s not a flashy director but to be fair, most of his films were pretty simple story telling that didn’t require lots of effects and such. He’s definitely not a showy director like say Nolan, Fincher or Tarantino.

  6. Stu

    I’m looking forward to this, though my enthusiasm’s a bit dampened now (this is the first review I’ve read)! I also think Letters From Iwo Jima is excellent and have high hopes that Eastwood will at least get near to the quality of that film. Sometimes I find his work a bit too slow and ponderous, but there have been a fair few gems.

    1. Hi Stu, this one is not quite up to par with Letters from Iwo Jima, like I mentioned in the review, the inclusion of a couple of “villains” threw me off and it just felt like an action picture to me. Hope you’ll enjoy it though.

  7. I really like Brad Cooper a lot, especially since he was in Silver Linings Playbook. I’m glad he’s finally gotten the opportunity to show off some of his other talents! I haven’t seen this yet, but I do plan to in the near future. I also liked how Clint Eastwood said he wasn’t trying to get nominated for this film, but that he just wanted to tell a good story.

    1. Hope you’ll enjoy this one Kristin, it’s a good flick and good performance by Cooper. It’s funny that you mentioned Eastwood and awards, I thought he really wanted to get nominations for J. Edgar but that one failed so bad and he probably just go screw it, I’ll just make a good movie instead of Oscar bait type. Ha ha.

      1. Haha, you make a good point about J. Edgar. I’m glad he decided to switch over. He seems to be a hit or miss director . . . but I am genuinely curious and interested in seeing American Sniper!

    1. It’s a good movie and if you’re a fan of either Eastwood or Cooper then you’ll probably enjoy it. I just didn’t think it’s a good war movie, definitely not in the same league as The Thin Red Line, Saving Private Ryan, Platoon, Full Metal Jacket or Eastwood’s other war movie, Letters from Iwo Jima.

  8. Saw this last night Ted, sneek peek at my local cinema (I know a guy who knows a guy kinda thing – the film opens here in limited release on Thursday) and I thought it was riveting. Sure, it’s kinda flawed around Cooper and Miller’s relationship, and Sienna ends up being another Army Widow Cliche (sitting at home, pregnant, crying, not knowing if her husband is coming home or not) but the military sequences and combat elements had be on the edge of my seat.

    I really liked it.

    1. Yeah I agree, the family drama didn’t really work for me but the battle sequences were pretty great. The inclusion of the villains really threw me off though, I mean it’s based on a real person and I thought it’s too Hollywood by having him hunting down another sniper. Heck I thought the climatic sequence was very similar to an action movie from the 90s called Sniper.

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