Film Review: American Sniper

by Vincent Chan

Rated MA15+. Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

Who is right, who is wrong? How do we decide to take the life of another and if this if the correct thing to do? This is the tension American Sniper proposes.

American Sniper tells the story of Chris Kyle (Cooper), the world’s most lethal sniper in US history. We get to see different facets of Kyle’s life. He is a protective older brother. He is a father who loves his children. He is a dutiful husband. And he is an American soldier with the responsibility of keeping the troops on the ground safe by being their eyes in the sky.

At the beginning of the film when Kyle is still just a child, his father tells him a metaphor about life. He tells him there are three types of people in the world: Sheep, wolves and sheepdogs. Sheep are the people who don’t believe in evil and are naive to the real world. Wolves are those that prey on the weak. Finally, sheepdogs are those that, gifted with aggression, use it to protect the flock. Kyle believes he is the sheepdog and the film seeks to show him as such.

If you appreciate good storytelling – you will enjoy American Sniper. Directed by Clint Eastwood, the film shows the signs of a truly great craftsman at work. Showing both the brutality of war and the angst of the returning soldier, Eastwood weaves a story with a subdued yet precise touch. Visually you feel the grittiness of war and the comforts of home. Audibly, the music is cut out at just the right moments. It is a beautiful film.

Furthermore, Bradley Cooper is cast excellently as Chris Kyle. Gaining a significant amount of muscle mass for his role, Cooper genuinely looks and feels like a man built to be a killing machine. However, what really stands out is Cooper’s portrayal in the tension of being a soldier on the field and a father at home. They say that eyes are the windows to the soul and Cooper is incredible at portraying the difficulty in leaving the war behind with his body and mannerisms.

I would dare to say that in American Sniper, you get to see filmmaking and storytelling at its finest – and that’s where it gets hard. It wants to tell its side of the story and there is definitely a side it takes. Whether you agree with it or not, you are drawn into a certain perspective.

Navy Doctor: ‘Do you ever think that you might have seen things or done some things over there that you wish you hadn’t?’

Kyle: ‘No not me… I was just protecting my guys, they were trying to kill our soldiers and I… I’m willing to meet my Creator and answer for every shot that I took.’

Is Kyle a hero or a villain? Is the war he takes part in one of necessary justice or sheer foolishness? These are the questions that the film opens and answers with its perspective. However the reality is that there will be those on both side of the fence when it comes to the ‘morality’ of American Sniper.

How we derive morality is something we need God for. The only way to know right and wrong is not by watching a film, but to know humanity and its purpose. The only way to know right and wrong does not come from what I think is right or wrong (or even what you think!). Rather it is determined by the One who we are created by and created for.

American Sniper is a film you will enjoy for its sheer ability to tell a story, but you will either love or hate it depending on whether you agree with it or not. Four stars.

American Sniper is available now on Blu-ray, DVD and digital download.

For more film reviews from a Christian perspective, connect with Reel Gospel on Facebook and Twitter.

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