The year of 2014 in cinema is being called many things; the year of science-fiction, the year of independent filmmakers, the year of quality summer blockbusters & of course, the year of biopics. The last part is interesting because out of the eight films nominated for Best Picture Oscar this year, four of these chronicle the lives of esteemed personalities. There is The Theory of Everything which offers us a glimpse into the personal life of renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, The Imitation Game does the same for the legendary cryptanalyst Alan Turing, Selma honours the legacy of notable civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Jr., and finally we have American Sniper that follows the most lethal sniper in United States history, Chris Kyle.
Based on the autobiography of the same name, American Sniper tells the life story of the decorated United States Navy SEAL Chris Kyle who served four tours in the Iraq War & earned a legendary status of the deadliest marksman in U.S. military history with 160 confirmed kills. The film adaptation briefly goes through segments of his life, including his childhood, his career as a professional rodeo, his four tours of duty in the Iraq War where he became a legend amongst his troops & earned notoriety amongst his foes who actually put a bounty on his head which was later increased, and it also tries to capture Kyle’s difficulties in readjusting to civilian life & domestic responsibilities whenever he returned home, thanks to the brutal memories of his war experiences.
Directed by the veteran Clint Eastwood, American Sniper offers a one-sided perspective on the subject of Iraq War by depicting all Iraqis as dehumanized savages, is brimming with American glorification for the most part, even tries to justify their moral policing habit on the world stage when they could really use some of that in their own backyard, and just like Lone Survivor which was released over a year ago, is nothing more than a mere propaganda piece made exclusively for American audience. Its story is ridden with clichés of its genre, offers nothing we haven’t seen before in warfare filmmaking, and for a cinema that has sniper in its title, its surprising just how briefly we see our protagonist putting his sniper rifle & gifted talent to use throughout its 132 minutes of runtime.
Coming to the technical side of filmmaking, all aspects are finely executed but none of its elements have anything to offer that can make them stand apart from other examples of the genre. Set pieces are expertly detailed, locations are wisely chosen, Cinematography captures the drama in a straightforward manner without adding any unpredictability or tension to the plot, Editing fails in providing a smooth transition from Kyle’s war duty to his domestic life back home & vice versa which ultimately becomes repetitive although the pace is fine, and I honestly can’t recall if there was any background score present in the picture which is weird because it’s one aspect that can enhance the overall experience by a considerable extent even if the story isn’t strong, something that didn’t happen here.
As far as its performances go, American Sniper features Bradley Cooper taking the role of Chris Kyle while Sienna Miller plays his wife, Taya. And that’s it actually because the rest of the supporting cast contribute nothing to the story & are present just so they can fill in for their one-dimensional characters. That part doesn’t really hurt the film because the plot is always focused on either Kyle or both of them & the two contribute strongly in their given roles, making efficient use of all the resources that the script provided. Cooper is steadily rising as one of the most reliable actors working in the film industry today & with this role, he adds another impressive act to his résumé. Miller is brilliant as Taya; Kyle’s wife who fails to understand why her husband keeps returning to Iraq & becomes increasingly concerned due to the evident change war has brought in his personality.
On an overall scale, American Sniper neither succeeds as one of the best examples of its genre nor is amongst Eastwood’s best works as a director. However, you have to give it to the 84-year old filmmaker who still isn’t showing any signs of slowing down & despite being a very mediocre film in my opinion, its combat sequences nevertheless manage to elevate its entertainment factor to a level that’s probably enough to satisfy the majority of mainstream audience. Undoubtedly the weakest nomination in both Best Picture & Best Actor category at the upcoming Academy Awards, and quite unworthy of its laurels as well considering that there were far too many better films & performances to come out in 2014, American Sniper might be breaking records at the box-office but content wise, it has nothing in store for those who are looking for a fresher outlook on the subject of war.