Clint Eastwood’s heavy-handed film about the most lethal sniper in American history suffers from a bad case of the Hollywood treatment.

You might expect a film about snipers to ask what it’s like to wait in the same spot for hours, anticipating a kill, and what runs through a sniper’s mind in those moments after one. US Navy SEAL, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), has his crosshair on a child. The child has a grenade and Kyle must make a difficult choice. Those questions are certainly raised in American Sniper but before we’re able to do any imaginative conjuring, Clint Eastwood’s film quickly moves on.
Bradley Cooper American Sniper

At the heart of American Sniper lies a problem. It isn’t entirely sure what it wants to say. Is it a meditation on what makes a person go to war? Or on the unique emotional realities of being a sniper? Is it about military celebrity and the dangers this brings both at war and at home? That Eastwood tries to make his film about all of this is his biggest mistake. He simply doesn’t have the space and his comments are reduced to ham-fisted cliches and vague allusions.

Whether American Sniper’s attitude to killing is intentionally complicated is difficult to gauge too. Eastwood veers from glorification – a glamorising slow motion bullet – to questioning the point of war at a military funeral. Cooper’s withdrawn, uncommunicative Kyle fails to elevate the exploration of post traumatic stress disorder to Hurt Locker magnitude and American Sniper is left bulging with misdirected potential.

VERDICT: ✭ ✭ ✭ 3/5


Certificate: 15
Running Time: 132 minutes
UK Release Date: 16 January 2014
Images: © 2014 Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., WV Films IV LLC and Ratpac-Dune Entertainment LLC-U.S., Canada, Bahamas & Bermuda

Review first printed in Ashfield & Mansfield Chad

Look out for a new series ‘Talking Points’ starting tomorrow with American Sniper and that slow motion bullet sequence.