Actually, the title isn’t quite right. Yes, this is a review of the movie, American Sniper, but first, I want to write about Clint Eastwood. Who would have thought, back in the 60s, watching Rawhide, that quiet, polite, silent Rowdy would have such an amazing career ahead of him. I mean, first, as an actor, Eastwood became a kind of cult hero. Who hasn’t ever muttered under their breath, “Make my day!”? There were the spaghetti westerns, the Dirty Harry movies, but there were also the suspense thrillers, Play Misty For Me, Unforgiven, Escape From Alcatraz, Tightrope, and Beguiled (a really creepy movie I’ll never forget watching). There was The Bridges of Madison County where he was the romantic lead, and Paint Your Wagon, where he sang a song. (He also put out a record album in the early 60s called, Favourite Cowboy Songs.)
Play Misty for Me was his directorial debut, an early female stalker movie which became a precursor for others such as Fatal Attraction, and was a smash hit. He played the lead role. Over 5 decades he has starred in 42 films and directed 35, in many of which he also had a starring role, and has contributed music to them as well. Some of these are unforgettable, such as Absolute Power, Space Cowboys, and Gran Torino. According to a Wikipedia source, Box Office Mojo says that films Eastwood has acted in “have grossed a total of more than $1.71 billion domestically [in the U.S.], with an average of $37 million per film. American Sniper grossed 64.4 million in its opening weekend. It is a hit!
This movie is a true story based on the book written by American navy SEAL vet, Chris Kyle. Chris, a Texan, was first taught to shoot by his father, whose philosophy was that “there are 3 kinds of people in the world — sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs” and the sheepdogs were there to protect the sheep from the wolves. Chris signs up at the age of 30 to do just that: protect Americans from being killed. He completes SEAL training, marries, and is deployed to Iraq. His one goal? To protect his men. How successful is he? He becomes known as “The Legend” and is the prime target for enemy snipers because of a huge bounty on his head. After 4 tours of duty, Chris comes home and has to deal with Post Trauma Stress Disorder. He deals with it by helping vets.
Bradley Cooper (see terrific article in January Vanity Fair) plays Kyle and is totally believable. He even looks a lot like him. He handles the equipment like he really knows what he’s doing and he never takes his job for granted. There is one scene where Kyle’s team has taken over an apartment so they can keep surveillance on the front door of a building across the street where they think The Butcher is located. They are just starting to feel they can trust their hosts when he notices the man’s elbow; Chris knows right away that he’s a sniper. He excuses himself and conducts a silent, meticulous search of the other rooms that uncovers a cache of weapons under the floor.
This is just one example of the tension in the movie; there is a taut undercurrent running all the way through it. We see Chris facing danger, making life and death decisions that will either save lives or kill needlessly, dealing with his failure to be able to protect everyone despite his amazingly high kill rate, and trying to fit back into a civilian life when each tour is completed. Despite being almost a stranger to his family, he won’t quit until he kills the enemy known as “The Butcher”. He is not just an American sniper — he’s an American hero.
This movie isn’t as violent as you might expect, or as violent as it could have been, and there are many very tender, human moments that have you cheering for this husband and father to come through and come home. The ending of the movie is really well played out and very sad, but also extremely moving as Chris is honoured by his family, his fellow-SEALS, and his country. This will become an American classic! * * * * *