American Sniper – 2014
Bradley Cooper stars in this drama about the American war hero Chris Kyle, a Navy Seal who earned himself the nickname, “The Legend” during his four tours of duty in Iraq. Of course, it is based on a true story, the real Chris Kyle being a true American hero. Cooper did a great job, infusing the character with a great mixture of redneck machismo, compassion, charm, and patriotism, along with a certain light smattering of PTSD between his tours of duty.
Kyle was a Texas native whose father brought him his first rifle when he was eight years old. As a young man, he became a professional bronco rodeo rider, a career which ended after a severe injury. After his arm healed, he joined the military and became a Navy Seal. He met Taya Studebaker, played by Sienna Miller, and the two married. Fighting in the Iraq War, he was assigned to Seal Team 3, sniper element platoon “Charlie.” It was his job to sit, hidden on a rooftop and watch the streets for armed or dangerous insurgents, while Marine ground troops raided houses looking for al-Qaeda terrorists.
He was so good at his job that his fellow troops eventually gave him the name “The Legend.” He had more confirmed sniper kills than any other American sniper in history, which means that he saved more American lives than any other sniper. It is interesting to note that the real Chris Kyle had another nick-name, one that was given to him by his enemies in the city of Ramadi. He was called Shaitan Ar-Ramadi , or “The Devil of Ramadi” In fact, a little detail the film embellished on was the $180,000 price on his head. In reality, there was a $20,000 – $80,000 reward offered for killing any American sniper.
Additionally, the film invented a professional rivalry between Kyle and an Iraqi sniper named Mustafa, played by Sammy Sheik. It was almost like the two were engaged in a cat and mouse game, each trying to find and kill the other, until Kyle finally takes out his nemesis with his legendary 1.19 mile shot. However, in the real Kyle’s memoirs, upon which the film is based, there was only a brief mention an enemy sniper named Mustafa who was an Olympics marksman. He says, “I never saw him, but other snipers later killed an Iraqi sniper we think was him.”
There were other solders in the film, none of whom really stood out to me. This movie was all about the character that Cooper portrayed. There were two friends that Kyle made during his tours. One was Marc Lee, who was killed by Mustafa, and the other was Ryab “Biggles” Job, who was severely wounded by Mustafa. He later died as well. This had the benefit of increasing the rivalry between the two snipers. But really, there were so many faces that were half-hidden beneath helmets, sunglasses, and military gear which unfortunately made them all look alike. Sometimes, the only face I could recognize was Cooper’s, and that was because of his big beard.
But as with all movies directed by Clint Eastwood, there had to be an emotional quality, and this movie stayed true to form. Because of Chris’s overwhelming patriotism, he kept going back to the war zone over and over again, leaving his wife and children alone, not knowing whether they would ever see him again. According to the film, this put such a strain on their relationship that their marriage almost ended. That much is true. But then the film would have us believe that he only decided to stop going back for more tours of duty because he had finally killed Mustafa. In reality, it was his endangered marriage that kept him from signing up for a fifth tour.
And all that brings me to the film’s sad ending. After he returns home, Kyle has to deal with post traumatic stress disorder. But he pulls himself together, talks to a psychologist, and makes peace with both his past and his family. He becomes a good husband and a loving father. Unfortunately, he is then murdered by a fellow war veteran who is also dealing with PTSD. Not knowing the real story, it really took me by surprise. It never explained anything about the man who killed him, but Eastwood did show real footage from the Kyle’s actual Funeral procession, which was quite touching.
The film was good, and was about seventy percent historically accurate. It was dramatic without being long-winded. It was intense without being insane. And it was touching without being sappy. I think the only thing which might have improved the film was the ending. I would like to know more about why Chris Kyle was murdered, which would have required a little back-story on Eddie Ray Routh, the man who killed him. It wouldn’t have had to take long. Just a few minutes might have been enough. It would have left me with a little more closure.
Still, the movie kept me entertained, and I would probably watch it again if given the chance. Bradley Cooper did a great job, as did Sienna Miller. It was both entertaining and informative about an American hero I had never heard of before.