Navy SEAL Chris Kyle’s (Bradley Cooper) driving to the mall with a blood pressure reading of 170/110. “There’s a war going on and nobody’s talking about it,” he says.
Well, they’re talking about it now. Whether you love or hate Clint Eastwood’s controversial Oscar contender, “American Sniper,” you can’t deny how it brought the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan back into the national dialogue.
The 132-minute film’s based on Kyle’s bestselling 2012 memoir, “American Sniper: The Autobiography of the Most Lethal Sniper in U.S. Military History,” which is co-written with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice.
With four consecutive tours to Iraq (where he spent about 1,000 days in between in the U.S.), Kyle has totaled more than 160 confirmed kills. His fellow SEALs nicknamed him “The Legend” — more myth-than-man especially when airbrushed by Jason Hall’s larger-than-life Hollywood script.
“That’s a title you don’t want,” Kyle tells a fellow veteran.
But his feats are legendary. Kyle’s your Paul Bunyan, whom the marines feel invincible around. He shot an enemy sniper from a distance of 21 football fields. The Iraqi insurgents nicknamed him the “Devil of Ramadi,” and put a $20,000 target on his head.
Despite all that, Cooper’s Kyle is very solid and grounded. When he says with his Texas drawl: “I’d lay down my life for this country,” you believe him without a doubt.
Kyle’s one of those old Western heroes Eastwood would have played a lifetime ago: a real American hero sworn to God, country and family (in that order). He was a cowboy before he was a soldier. And his father, Wayne (played by Ben Reed), taught Chris to protect his own.
That’s what he’s trying to do when we’re first introduced to him. Kyle’s lying on his belly with a rifle in his hand. Below him, you can hear the rebels’ croon “Allah Akbar.” The rumble of an approaching U.S. Marine tank muffles their cries.
From his elevated vantage point, Kyle sees a woman and a kid with a grenade. They’re moving quickly toward the marines.
“You’ll fry if you’re wrong,” his comrade Goat (Kyle Gallner) whispers in his ear.
He has only seconds to shoot. If he chooses to.
If you choose to see “American Sniper,” be prepared for very graphic material. Eastwood creates a visceral experience, shooting you with a fusillade of heavy and emotional bullets. These include the terrorist attacks on the U.S. Embassies in 1998 and the World Trade Center on 9/11; as well as the confrontational conversations between Kyle and his wife, Taya (played by Sienna Miller), whose trying to raise two children on her own.
It certainly feels like you’re at war. At times, you’re looking through the crosshairs. Children and women are in the line of fire, holding up bombs and picking up guns. There’s lulls of pillow talk interrupted by the continuous rat-a-tat-tat of gunfire. Blood and guts. Disturbing images you can’t unsee. It’s long and emotionally draining, filling you with anger, pride, fear, but mostly, an incredible sadness that pierces your heart.
“American Sniper” was directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Jason Hall, based on Chris Kyle, Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice’s book. “American Sniper’s” nominated for six Academy Awards including Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Editing, Best Sound Mixing, Best Sound Editing and Best Motion Picture.