American Sniper (15)

Directed by Clint Eastwood
Picturehouse, Liverpool
From 23rd January 2015

Reviewed by Colin Serjent

The most chilling phrase in this film, based upon the memoirs of an expert American sniper, Chris Kyle, played by Bradley Cooper, occurs when he is regularly missing his target at a army firing range "I find it easier to hit the mark when it is alive."

Another disturbing aspect about Kyle, who served in the Iraq war, is that after being taught how to shoot by his father - you see the teenage Kyle shooting dead a defenceless deer - he then teaches his young son to do likewise.

Director Clint Eastwood, no stranger to political controversy, stated that American Sniper is not a propaganda film on behalf of the American army, but without question that is the case. It glorifies and glamourises the American soldiers serving in Iraq, with the focus being on 'The Legend', as his colleagues describe Kyle.

There is no attempt to identify with the Iraq cause and their hatred of the American occupation, except for the Iraq sniper Mustafa (Sammy Sheik) who is Kyle's foil and nemesis, regularly killing American troops. Unlike Kyle, he is given no background about himself, for instance, how he came to be such an accomplished sniper, and remains more or less anonymous. We see his face but only in combat.

From my viewpoint I found Mustafa more charismatic in the film than his American counterpart.

Kyle, despite killing 160 Iraqis, including children - he described Iraqis as "savages" - the highest-ever total by a serving American soldier - spread over a period of four tours, covering more than 1000 days, shows no indication of aging at all towards the end of the film. Inexplicable.

Another discrepancy is the lack of examples of the searing heat , sometimes reaching 50 degrees centigrade in Iraq, experienced by the American soldiers.

A particular irksome aspect of the movie was the time spent on the domestic life of Kyle and his wife Taya (a one-dimensional performance by Sienna Miller) and new born babies, both when she was at home while he was serving in Iraq and when they were both together again. After returning from a tour she tells Kyle that he has changed as a person!

I hate to guess what an Iraqi audience would make of American Sniper. Utter disdain most likely.

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