American Sniper

Jan 16, 2015

It's rough out there in real life.

American Sniper

Grade: B

Director: Clint Eastwood (Flags of Our Fathers)

Screenplay: Jason Hall (Paranoia), from Chris Kyle book

Cast: Bradley Cooper (American Hustle), Sienna Miller (Foxcatcher)

Rating: R

Runtime: 134 min.

by John DeSando

“That was evil like I’ve never seen before.” Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper)

Besides The Hurt Locker, I can’t think of another film that better expresses the frustrations and horrors of the war in Iraq than Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is called “Legend” by his fellow troops for his sniper expertise, 160 confirmed kills to be precise.

Based on Kyle’s writings, the film is executed in a stark, realistic fashion that Kathryn Bigelow would approve. The colors are bled out, like the camouflage desert uniforms; the dust swirls at times like the fog of war, and true to the genre, the middle-class home life is less than glamorous with a wife clamoring for her husband’s return. Taya (Sienna Miller) was seduced by Chris after meeting him in a bar (even though she avowed no interest in the “self-centered pricks”), a metaphor for her seduction into thinking she could marry a SEAL and have a normal family life.

The abnormal life is couched in four tours for him, each one progressively distancing him from his family. He feels the obligation to protect them and his buddies from evil. Having not accepted the fiction of WMD’s, where some other soldiers have, he doggedly pursues the enemy the best way he knows how, as a sniper, and a very good one at that.

The battle scenes in Fallujah are even more horrific than those in Fury because the enemy is not in tanks but hiding in civilian clothes.  It is virtually impossible sometimes to tell the good guys from the bad. For example in an early sequence, Chris is faced with the ultimate sniper horror: a mother and child walk suspiciously toward a group of soldiers, and he must decide if they are hostile or not. Even our cool-hearted protagonist has to pause in situations like this.

Eastwood has again shown that a director need not be young to be relevant and powerful.  American Sniper will make you happy we have just about left the Iraq theater, but it will not make you feel safe for the rest of our engagements in the mid-east.

John DeSando, a Los Angeles Press Club first-place winner for National Entertainment Journalism, hosts WCBE’s It’s Movie Time and co-hosts Cinema Classics. Contact him at