American Sniper was a great movie — except for:
Okay. I’ll get to the “except for” later. As you probably know, the movie is about Chris Kyle, Navy SEAL and the most lethal sniper in American military history, His 160 known kills probably saved the lives of many times that number of American troops. Problem was, in a war which mixed women and children, old men, and young boys, putting his bullets where they counted took its toll on him as a human being.
One of the great things about the movie was the man chosen to portray this extraordinary soldier. actor Bradley Cooper. To be honest, at first I didn’t like him all that much. He looked too paunchy and big altogether to be a Navy SEAL, who must be highly mobile and dexterous. I think of SEALs as elite lethal shadows, not overweight Schwarzeneggars. But not only was Cooper’s portrayal beyond censure, he looked enough like Chris Kyle that it’s hard to tell them apart, except Cooper’s face was a little more fleshy than Kyle’s. I’ve read since that Cooper gained 40 pounds of muscle to play this part. He should have stopped at 30 and he did not look all muscle.
But what made this portrayal so memorable went way beyond any surface resemblance. I don’t know how Bradley Cooper did it, but at the moment his eye pinned the target, made the decision, and pulled the trigger, it’s like his soul moved in his eyes. As if we, the viewers, could actually see the ghost of his wounded psyche among the remarkable neuronal networks that created this American sniper legend. I’ve never seen anything like it.
The interplay of scenes cutting in and out through his four tours of duty and his stateside home life, were also well done, not dwelling too long on one to the detriment of the other. In other words, just when the homey/honey stuff got just to the outer edge of boring, we were flipped to the other side.
But what detracted from the story was so many stupid, idiotic actions of this supposedly cutting-edge team of warriors.
My major problem was more than a pet peeve. I was P.O’d to a fare-thee-well when Cooper dilly-dallied around on his “cell phone” in conversations with his wife. This was while on duty patrolling the enemy streets or watching the backs of the troops as a sniper. And, of course, combat WOULD insinuate itself at the most inconvenient moments. It’s like:
Wife, stateside — “Honey, I just got out of the doctor’s office. It’s a boy!”
Kyle, in the danger zone — “That’s great!. Excuse me a minute, darlin’, one of my men just got his head blown off and I’m under fire.”
Wife screams into the phone, probably tries dialing back, then goes into pregnant-wife conniptions. Gott in Himmell. I hope that didn’t happen in real life!
Then there was Kyle’s spotter, the man who keeps an eye out, not only on the sniper’s shot and position, but helps spy out the enemy and protect the shooter’s back. In the movie, he played cards, took naps, and just mostly sat around with his thumb up his nose. Does that really happen in a life and death situation? I hope not. Surely SEALs or other combat personnel are taught how to deal with long periods of inaction. Surely?
Then the team go on a mission to try to find or flush out an enemy sniper who has eluded them through the first of Kyle’s tours. The team takes position on the roof of a building within the boundaries of the enemy sniper’s territory. Unfortunately, this is equivalent to putting the men on a dinghy in the middle of a shark-infested ocean. Sharks with guns and rocket launchers. Their best bet is to lay low and wait for the cavalry, who is supposed to arrive at some point.
But the MISSION is to find and take out Mustafa, the deadly Olympic enemy sniper. Cooper, as Kyle, spots him. The shot is over 2,000 feet. But Mustafa is not known for hanging around waiting to get a bull’s eye painted on him. Cooper debates over taking this “bird in the hand” as opposed to waiting and missing his opportunity. The problem is the swarm of insurgents on the streets below, surrounding the men in every direction. One shot will give away the position of this (maybe) 12-man team.
This is when the other problem pops up. You have a handful of men on a roof among a sea of enemies. When their position is given away by the 2000 foot shot and they are fighting for their lives, they call in a strike. Okay. So it takes time to set up the strike, get it on its way, and get to the target. Why, in such a volatile situation, did they not have the strike set up beforehand, just in case of, say, fate, Murphy’s Law, or simply, “it happens”.
Yes, it was a good movie altogether. Just numb your ears to the language. It is a combat situation. But even then, I don’t see how the men can possibly get enough time and breath for all their F-bombs. It would take some practice.
There are plenty of blogs out there to tell you what’s true and what’s just movie making about this film. So I’m not going into that. I’ll just give you a couple of links for further reading if you’re interested. Okay? Just a word of warning. Not all of these people agree on what’s real and what’s not.