“American Sniper” hits its mark

Duncan Cooper, Staff

The streets of Baghdad are rife with danger. Every American soldier on the ground knows that each house, every rooftop can provide shelter for a man who has been paid to take their life. At any moment a bullet can rain down and never allow them to see their family again. The sound of a bullet rips through the air, and the dead body of a militant falls to the ground at the feet of the US soldiers on patrol. Their cover, a sniper, has just saved their lives.

For those who fought alongside Chris Kyle, this was not an unfamiliar sight. The deadliest sniper in American history, Chris Kyle was a Navy SEAL with 160 confirmed kills. With four tours of duty in Iraq under his belt, Kyle saw the worst of what 21st century warfare had to offer. American Sniper is the story of Chris Kyle, and his life as America’s deadliest shooter.

One Man

The film features Kyle almost exclusively, putting a great amount of pressure upon Bradley Cooper to give a strong performance. To say he succeeds is faint praise, as Cooper gives a stunning performance that shows a deep intimacy of who Kyle was, and what made him such a  dedicated soldier. From his early training with firearms to his final goodbye, Kyle’s life is explored and studied on many levels, to the relationship with his wife to the brotherhood he possessed with his fellow soldiers. The film treats Kyle’s legacy with respect and honor.

However, the film’s greatest flaw is that Kyle is so heavily focused upon that other characters are not given a chance to be developed or explored. Though Cooper’s wife, Taya (Played by Sienna Miller) appears to be a charming, self-asserting woman, her part in the story remains small compared to that of her husband’s. Other characters are given even less time for development.

The new warfare

American Sniper is a war film nonetheless, though it doubles as a biographical film. The violence is intense and graphic, even more so when viewers remind themselves these people actually existed. It is one thing when violence happens in a video game, it is another entirely when you know that person never came back. American Sniper takes away little in its portrayal of the harshness and brutality of war, and the savagery Kyle and his fellows faced. It is blood-pulsing, heart-pumping tension all the way through.

Clint Eastwood

Much of this would not be possible without the thinking and style of legendary actor and director Clint Eastwood, who ensures brilliant cinematography and pacing to keep the viewer interested. Action sequences rarely feel rushed, “shaky cam” is near nonexistent, and the right amount of perspective between Kyle’s time at war and home is kept balanced, all the way to the end.


Chris Kyle, due to his excellent skills with a rifle, earned the title “Legend” during his tours of duty. His ability was a marvel, and it saved the lives of American soldiers across all four tours. However, Kyle himself never kept track of kill record. The only lives that mattered to him were the lives of those he could not save.

Kyle saw brutality and horror in war, but his determination to see it through never wavered. One of the most admirable aspects of Kyle’s life was not his exceptional marksmanship, but his clear vision as to why he fought at all: to protect his fellow soldiers, and to ensure those he fought against would never make it across the oceans to the country –and people- he loved. To him, it was that simple. He loved his country, and felt a sense of dedication to take care of those who were a part of it.

After his tours of duty ended, Kyle struggled as many soldiers did. But his manner of healing and recovery from war’s poundings was through serving in a different capacity: helping other soldiers recover and grow strong again. He found recovery by helping others recover. Even though one man who he was trying to help would kill him, he was dedicated to his country as well as his family. Right to the end.

American Sniper is not the definitive war film, but it is the story of a modern hero and patriot whose convictions and love of his country made him a hero to his country, and Legend on the battlefield.