HUB Movie Review: American Sniper

Story posted April 17, 2015 in CommRadio by Sofia Westin

Time for a highly patriotic movie that even has the word American in the title, that ends up not being so patriotic after all.

American Sniper chronicles the life of Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper), who earned the nickname “Legend” for his talent in sniper shooting which helped save many American soldiers’ lives in Iraq after 9/11. It follows him through his four tours in Iraq, to adjusting to home life and dealing with his convictions.

American Sniper struck home with many critics and audiences, yet the ratings remained quite low considering the praising remarks for Cooper and Clint Eastwood (director) seen during the trailer. Audiences at IMDb rated it at 7.4. MetaCritic had mostly favorable reviews, so it earned a score of 72. RottenTomatoes had the highest ratings, with 86 percent of audiences liking it, and its top critics certified it fresh with 83. Though when all critics of RottenTomatoes were included the score dropped to 73, which is more consistent with IMDb and MetaCritic. For once the top critics are nicer!

Along with good reviews and high scores, came lots of money. American Sniper became the highest grossing war movie of all time, beating Saving Private Ryan (1998). It earned a whopping $540+ million worldwide, making it the highest grossing movie of 2014. It also broke the January box office record with $105 million in its first weekend release.

It also was nominated for many awards, but only ended up with one Academy Award for sound editing (which is a pretty lame award, though an Oscar nonetheless). Cooper received many Best Actor nominations, the movie itself was nominated for Best Picture, and the script received a Best Writing, Adapted Screenplay nomination from the Academy.

On the Penn State Scale...
1—when Penn State loses a game,
2—an 8 a.m class (which are awful),
3—a canceled 8 a.m class,
4—free books for a year,
and 5—free Creamery for a year,

American Sniper earns a 3.5, which is from my own personal problems with it and general critic responses.

American Sniper chronicles Chris Kyle’s life, from a young boy to the day he joins the military to his time in the Middle East to his death. Despite going through all this, I got a sense the film just barely touched the surface of his life. I see American Sniper as more of a war movie that featured Chris Kyle, rather than a homage to his life. There are too many incidents that lack explanation of how he really felt or as to why he behaved the way he did.

By the end, this is what I had gathered about Kyle: he was a man who will do whatever is necessary to protect his fellow men, he’s a stout American patriot, he doesn’t talk much, he loves his family, and he suffers PTSD.  This seems like quite a lot, but all of these things come from his actions. They’re not explained or discussed. No “why” or “how” can explain this very complex human being.

With the lack of in-depth coverage, the story was alright. It seemed way too dramatic for war (which sounds like a mistake), because it seemed just so coincidental for so many events that just had to happen to Kyle. I won’t mention them here for spoilers, but I remind you here and further down that movies take liberties with true stories for dramatic effects. It’s not so much about truth, but rather good stories. Good stories usually have more depth, which in this case, it did not.

Though viewers lack understanding, the actors do not. Bradley Cooper does an absolutely amazing job becoming the big Texan, conveying his beliefs and times of weakness. He really gave the signal that he had done his homework on Kyle, reading the book and talking to his family and friends. It’s almost hard to recognize the actor, who once used to grace the movie screens when he was the pretty boy in the Hangover trilogy. He has since then taken a sharp turn to the hard-core acting world, and it clearly shows here.

Clint Eastwood, probably the most ‘Merican you can get, directed the film quite expertly. He captured excellent scenes and picked interesting points of view.

Now, to my own personal shtick. My biggest bone to pick with the movie is the simple fact that I could barely understand what was being said. As a non-American having lived in America for a while, I realize that I can’t understand southern accents. I had the same problem watching Dallas Buyers Club last year, where the main character had a southern accent. So though Bradley Cooper does a fantastic job being Kyle, I just had trouble understanding what he was saying as he adopted Kyle’s Texan accent. I get the general gist or can guess my way to understanding but… I need subtitles!

My need for subtitles extends to the time Kyle spends in Iraq. When the soldiers are discussing what to do next or which battalion goes where, etc. I’m not sure what they mean then either. I don’t know if audiences generally don’t understand or don’t need to understand, but it’s there to give authenticity rather. I hope it’s the latter. But subtitles would again be needed. Now this is more of a personal thing, and most of you will probably (hopefully) understand. I just thought I’d share. *wink*

Just like I mentioned in the Imitation Game review, don’t take all the occurrences in the movie at face value. The movie is based on Chris Kyle’s life, but it’s not like the book at all. The general stuff is there like the characters, places, feelings. That seems to be it. The major events in the movie never happened to Chris. Meaning: the screenwriter took many liberties for dramatic effect. I think that is a bit disrespectful to Kyle’s memory. Sorry to burst any bubbles.

Final notes: it’s raw, gory film that looks not only at Kyle’s military career, but also on the harrowing realties on war and how it affects soldiers and their families.

Sofia Westin is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism and economics. To contact her, email