Tuesday, August 2, 2016

American Sniper

We continue our journey with the top grossing movie of 2014, American Sniper.  The military story of the current "most deadly" sniper in American history.  Based on an autobiography of the same name.  Released the final Weekend of 2014 in limited release it would go on to make the bulk of it's $350M draw in 2015, and sit at #1 for three weeks after it's wide release.

This was a movie that I had no desire to see when it was released.  I had no moral or ideological objections to it as I'm sure many did, I just had no interest in the subject.  At a certain level theres a turning point for me in these style if movies.  I think it would probably be Clooney's Three Kings, the last one I can recall without digging through lists.  Something after that point said there's nothing in these movies for me anymore.

And yet after I watched American Sniper I have to wonder if there's something inside me that is just broken.  Nothing about this movie make me feel anything.  The closest feeling I had was Borden during the opening 30 minutes of Chris Kyle's life "before" the military.  And yet can (or should) a movie make as much money as this and not cause some reaction?  Maybe it's that there's no tension for me, I know it's an autobiography and despite his death "during" the production the most "worrisome" portions of the combat zones hold no concern.  This is made worse by the fact that the movie focuses so much on him that any of the other soldiers with him don't produce any buy-in.  I literally could not tell you another troopers name.  But enough of my brokenness.

Shortly before I watched this, I had been listening the the F This Movie podcast about gripes.  One of their major gripes was trope overuse and I found it interesting the way two of them came out in this.  The first is the military training, this came out bad in my estimation.  This was one of the things that led to boredom in the early part of the movie.  We already know he's going to make it through boot camp and be this "elite" soldier.  We don't need 15 minutes of instructors yelling at him to prove it.  The second and better example was the birth of his first child.  Having just left the hospital and in an argument on the way home the water breaks and Chris makes a crazy u-turn to get to the hospital.  So next of course will be wife screaming in the delivery room trying to push out the baby, but refreshingly we just cut to "here's your baby boy!".  As I said refreshing, but the one thing about that that did bug me is where are all the labor and delivery people?  There's no way they would have all cleared out that fast with the clip still on the umbilical and mucus still covering larger portions of the baby, yet the couple is totally alone.

Another compliment I have is the action.  In a world of shaky-cam and a million cuts a second that we get in most action movies, this is wonderfully devoid of that until it matters.  And even when it does it's used effectively.  Many action sequences are thought out log shots, where you have a wonderful sense of location and position of all the players.  When we do get to the frantic scene of the final combat, we start out just as long as most other combat scenes and slowly ratchet up the speed and the cut speed until we're in the middle of the sandstorm and it's appropriate to be as disoriented as the people in the scene would be.  I'm sure we have Clint Eastwood's direction to thank for that.

In the long run I can't see myself ever returning to this movie.  There's nothing bad about it, there's just nothing really good in my book.

Final Score: 5/10


  1. Ok, so I am curious, since I haven't seen this movie. Was there a theme or message they were trying to get across? I know sometimes biopics follow the life so closely that any "message" or theme just isn't included.

    And for the record, the trailer hinges on that same kind of false suspense that you described in the movie, and that was not enough to get me interested in the movie.

    1. that's a good question, but since I can't answer it I'm going to have to go with no. The closest thing I can see to a moral is maybe his creed of "not giving up" no matter the obstacle, but that seems to me to be a general War Movie theme.