Review: American Sniper

“There are three types of people in the world,” Wayne Kyle tells his son across the dinner table, “sheep, wolves and sheepdogs.” In this scenario, Chris Kyle is a sheepdog, having become one of the most accomplished marksmen in US military history. Chris recorded his extraordinary experiences in a series of memoirs, which have received a Hollywood makeover in “American Sniper”.

Directed by Clint Eastwood (stepping in for Steven Spielberg), American Sniper follows the story of Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), whose pinpoint accuracy saved countless lives on the battlefield and turned him into a legend. However, after returning home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, Chris struggles with leaving the war behind him.

In his role as Chris Kyle, Bradley Cooper puts in an award-worthy performance throughout the film’s 134 minute running time. Cooper, who is almost unrecognisable in the role having undergone a major transformation, brilliantly achieves the balance between a war hero who is willing to go beyond the call of duty to serve his country, and a family man who loves his wife and kids.

It’s the latter which adds an emotional counterpoint. In between tours, Chris returns home to his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) and kids, where the effects of the war begin to take its toll. Whilst such scenes doesn’t have the weight needed to have a significant emotional impact, it doesn’t take anything away from Miller’s performance, who infuses enough personality into her rather clichéd role as a military wife to make her part worthwhile.

However, despite the script lacking the emotional impact off the battlefield, it’s a different story in the warzone thanks to American Sniper’s brilliantly executed action sequences. Clint Eastwood manages to build up an unnerving composure and suspense, as Cooper stares down the scope of his sniper, places his finger on the trigger and fires at his target in extreme circumstances.