American Sniper, the film based on the life of the most lethal sniper in American military Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, lives up to the hype surrounding itself.
The movie opens with a scene almost identical to the opening sequence in the memoir it’s based on. Kyle (Bradley Cooper) lies on a rooftop of a building in Fallujah, Iraq on an overwatch, tracking potential targets as a Marine unit clears a neighborhood. As he stares down the scope of his rifle, a woman hands off a grenade to her child as the Marines approach.
The scene cuts just before he takes the shot.
The entire movie is a series of cuts similar to this. One moment, the audience is immersed in a massive firefight in Iraq. The next, we’re back in San Diego where Kyle was stationed with SEAL Team 3 or on a ranch in Texas.
Miraculously, director Clint Eastwood pulls off these unexpected scene changes, flawlessly merging the two key aspects of the Navy SEAL’s life: his family back home in California and his career as America’s deadliest sniper. Despite the two hour, 14-minute movie’s near-constant action scenes, the movie maintains the audience’s attention throughout with this mash-up of scenes from Kyle’s life.
However, like any movie based on a novel, there are inconsistencies.
Scenes are meshed together that, in the book, were different scenes from different tours in Iraq. For instance, the movie insinuates that Kyle and Ryan “Biggles” Job went through training together prior to the first deployment. In the novel, Biggles came into play much later, after Kyle’s first tour with SEAL Team 3.
For the most part, the movie follows the book closely, with only minor deviations prior to the end sequence.
The most problematic part going into the movie would be addressing Kyle’s life after his last deployment and his 2013 death. After reading the novel, I was curious to see how Cooper and Eastwood would face the task, since the novel was published prior to Kyle’s death.
The pair gambled and won.
Basing the post-war plot from the final chapter of American Sniper, Eastwood and Cooper led into Kyle’s work with disabled veterans. The final scenes show Cooper walking through a local hospital, visiting therapists and talking with other vets. The duo shows a version of the work Kyle did by getting vets back behind a scope, hunting or shooting targets in the woods.
The heart-wrenching end shows Cooper taking another vet out to hunt because “his mother asked [him] to.” Your stomach sinks when hearing Cooper say this line in a thick Texan accent before the title slide announcing Kyle’s 2013 death appears.
While American Sniper does not follow the novel of the same name at all times, it’s still a worthwhile watch that will quickly climb into must-see lists. The movie does not disappoint, despite any reservations fans of the novel may have. American Sniper is an emotional rollercoaster that will have you on the edge of your seat for 132 minutes.