Bradley Cooper is an extremely patriotic Texan, who after seeing the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the TV decides he has to go and defend his country from Iraq. He then becomes the best sniper America has ever had, and is called a hero everywhere he goes.
First off, this is a film about Bradley Cooper’s character. And while he is fantastic, the movie doesn’t really have time for anyone else. He does shine incredibly brightly, but this might be because he is the only one shining at all.
On a technical level it is a very good piece of work, its shot very well, the set pieces are executed very well and it does some parts of the plot very well. The problem is of the three or four themes in the movie, the majority don’t really work. The call of duty esque battle scenes are impeccable, it looks and sounds brilliant. But it’s the more emotional side of things in which American Sniper is lacking.
One of my big problems with the film, is the exceedingly positive view it shows of the American war in Iraq. Main reasons for their fighting there are given as defending America from terrorists, and this is backed up by the fact that literally every single citizen of Iraq encountered by the Americans is either a terrorist or in cahoots with a terrorist including children. And as such Bradley Cooper sometimes is faced with the possibility of killing children, that’s pretty dark and doesn’t show Americans all too positively. But don’t worry! This movie ensures that however bad the dealings of the Americans, the citizens of Iraq do something much worse. Like evilly forcing their children to fire weapons for them, or evilly chopping limbs of innocent American soldiers, or evilly being good at shooting innocent American soldiers, or evilly having some guns, or evilly being on a phone, or evilly not being American. Every shot with a non-American in it comes with this jarring soundtrack telling you that what they are doing is evil. However, I think what the film is trying to do is show us the war through Bradley Cooper’s eyes, but you can still do that without the whole film portraying the whole of Iraq as a hive of evil terrorists.
It’s also one of the slowest movies I have ever seen. Honestly at one point I was feeling like it must be drawing to an end in about 20 minutes or so, only to find out I wasn’t even half way through the movie. There are long films that just zip past (Interstellar, Boyhood, Whiplash) and then there are long movies that feel every bit as long as they are. This belongs firmly to the latter category.
Overall, it’s a massively flawed but impeccably well carried out movie. I just think it could have delved deeper into its themes. At the end of the day this is just icing, without a cake.