Just in time to stir up controversy among those who can’t appreciate entertainment at face value, Clint Eastwood’s adaptation of SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s (Bradley Cooper) memoir is marginally gripping but mostly unremarkable. As it thoroughly chronicles Kyle’s post-9/11 rise to Iraq War superstardom, his inevitable struggle to lead a normal life on US soil becomes increasingly problematic. From one tour to the next, only time will tell if war’s intoxicating allure is as irresistible as we’ve been led to believe.
If there exists such a thing as “bombastic humanism,” American Sniper embraces and slaps you in the face with the heft of a figurative wet fish. It’s assuredly and appropriately pro-militaristic in illustrating its core subject’s ideals and heroism, however Kyle’s battlefield prowess is often illustrated to near-cartoonish effect, transforming Eastwood’s familiarly harsh perception of wartime brutality from unflinching to eye-rolling. Barring its Texas everyman-cum-superhero flair, nothing rings overbearingly jingoistic despite verbalized instances of vitriol dished between fellow soldiers and the like, which is admirable if negligible as the body count rises (and rises).
Where Sniper flounders remains an agreeably glaring flaw, the film’s back-home moments exploiting Sienna Miller’s concerned wife archetype and the needless exposition she initiates out of base necessity. Believe me, there’s hardly an individual that isn’t familiar with the horrors and subsequent effects of war. Like I mentioned, war remains infamously addictive to those unfortunate enough to succumb to this quality. Kyle’s no exception given his lengthy and storied career, and the moments of PTSD seesawing and argued-over familial estrangement just feel ineffectually stale in comparison to Sniper‘s action set pieces, of which just feel more important, almost as if the film feels the same way about itself.
As it now thrives within the annals of comparable theatrical success stories, American Sniper does little to elevate the presentation of its subject above the medium’s and my standards. It unavoidably suffers from biopic-itis, infrequently but noticeably painting Kyle as both a god amongst men and typically affected veteran of considerable note. There’s no doubting the inherent gravity of Kyle’s achievements, that’s for sure, I just wish that Sniper‘s procedurally, sometimes thematically redundant presentation didn’t ring so hollow in the wake of its more distinguishable if sparse strong suits.