In all honesty, this started out as a spoiler-free review, but I’ve been engaging with too much content about this film to keep it that way.
American Sniper seems to have audiences split; you either love it, or you hate America. Apparently. I personally loved certain portions of the film, but I also understand why such a film can be quite dangerous.
Let’s start with the stylistic devices used in Sniper: From the start of the film you feel that Eastwood’s cast and crew are doing a fairly decent job with suspense; the opening sequence has got a ton of it – but I won’t give you any details here. An issue for me was that many of the action sequences that followed felt like they were straight out of a Call of Duty game: killing some evil foreigners in their own country.
There’s also the issue that, whether you want it to or not, this movie automatically brings up talk and debate about war, and specifically the Iraq war (and invasion) that is a very controversial topic.
I mean, you get this kind of hate speech flying around:
What I enjoyed about the film was Cooper’s performance. You have to appreciate his insane physical transformation, as well as capturing the essence of PTSD (or some version of it) so well.
Here’s the thing: I feel like there are many war movies that captured it a lot better:
Jarhead, for one, is one of my all-time favourite films that blatantly illustrates the pointlessness of the abyss to which the soldier’s mind travels in war. Beautifully summed up in this quote by Swofford, the lead in the film:
“A story. A man fires a rifle for many years. and he goes to war. And afterwards he comes home, and he sees that whatever else he may do with his life – build a house, love a woman, change his son’s diaper – he will always remain a jarhead. And all the jarheads killing and dying, they will always be me. We are still in the desert.”
Apocalypse Now went to the depths of a man’s soul,lost deep in the Jungle of his own mind, wrestling in vain with his own being…. The horror…. It’s summed up in the tragic monologue by Brando when Willard meets Kurtz. You see that haunted face pop out of the shadows, and you know why Brando is remembered for Apocalypse Now more than Sheen is.
“I’ve seen horrors… horrors that you’ve seen. But you have no right to call me a murderer. You have a right to kill me. You have a right to do that… but you have no right to judge me. It’s impossible for words to describe what is necessary to those who do not know what horror means. Horror… Horror has a face… and you must make a friend of horror.“
Full Metal Jacket brings us a conscious soldier, as connected to the truth of the brutality of war as he is to the violent acts committed with his own hands. This is very apparent in the “duality of man” scene.
My issue with American Sniper is that it’s not better than these films. Heck, it’s not better than The Hurt Locker or Zero Dark Thirty (i.e. the general army-praising films that get a free pass into the Oscar race). By the way, I loved The Hurt Locker.
I don’t dislike American Sniper because of the subject matter; I dislike it because I don’t think it’s a great film. It’s a good film, but not a great film.
American Sniper has been nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture. You can watch the trailer below.
Bonus! Everyone has been talking about this scene from American Sniper. Yes, director Clint Eastwood thought it would be perfectly okay to use a fake baby for quite a lengthy scene where the two main characters are actually passing the baby back and forth.
Then again, Mr. Eastwood was never one for subtlety.
In conclusion, all I can say is that Fury was indeed the best war movie of 2014. You can find the trailer for Fury below:
See it/ Don’t see it: See it, it’s a decent movie.
About the Author: Stephen is co-founder of BTG Lifestyle, filmmaker and critic who understands the power of film, to do good and evil.