Veterans are notoriously quiet when it comes to their lives in war. My own grandfather never said anything about his time in the navy during WWII to me. Clint Eastwood had a difficult job when he took on transferring the life of Chris Kyle to the screen. One, you have a legend in the military. Two, its a man who even in his book, is not the most forthcoming with his emotions, even though we know he had much to overcome after his time in the war. Third, how do you accurately portray the PTSD of Kyle when like many military people he is less than loquacious about his experiences and the severity of their impact him.
Eastwood makes the decision that instead of trying to show us the impact on Kyle, he will let the audience experience his life alongside him. This way, as Bradley Cooper gives us the subtle hints at what the war is doing to him in the field and when he is home, we’ve lived his life. You know what is running through his mind when he is sitting in a chair in his living room with the television off, or as he drives white-knuckled on the freeway. It’s strangely effective. When the movie ends, it leaves you more transformed than you realized.
Cooper gives a moving performance, never over the top or distracting. He looks the part and you never believe he is not America’s deadliest sniper. Siena Miller does a good job of portraying Taya, the wife that is left at home, trying to keep the fires of home burning as Kyle deploys four times. The casting is perfect.
Many will say the movie is pro war and yet if you read the book American Sniper you will realize that Kyle is not pro war, he is pro-America and he’s there to protect his fellow soldiers. He’s a warrior, that’s how he sees himself. For him it’s God, Country, Family and he lived that out till his dying day. I think the movie lets the audience make up it’s own mind about war and it’s impact. Kyle does go through a lot to get healthy yet you won’t really see that in the movie. People will complain about this as well. Yet Eastwood is being true to his subject. Kyle didn’t really talk much about what happened and when he did, he downplayed everything, reminding us that others had it much worse.
American Sniper is an experience. Being married to a military person and having them be affected by the film and say it was good, carried a lot of weight. Veterans know best in this area where we civilians can only ask and listen when they will tell us their stories. This movie is a timely reminder that our soldiers have wounds they may never talk about. Iraq and the War on Terror might not be in the news much anymore, but these men and women still need our support, our love and patience.