Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle’s pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can’t leave behind.
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Eastwood is too introspective, too multilayered, and too knowing about the backfire from on-screen violence to print the legend of the man Kyle’s awed comrades called “the Legend.” The Chris Kyle of American Sniper, the memoir, is not the Chris Kyle of American Sniper, the movie, which makes for a more interesting—and ultimately more celebratory—portrait of a man who, by his own account, reveled in his work as a flesh-and-blood Predator drone.
The film’s depiction of Iraqis as devious, homicidal or both doesn’t exactly scream sensitivity, and when the Army vows to “put the fear of God into these savages” the film takes that at face value. Yet this is an immensely potent drama – and, despite appearances, not an irresponsible one.
American Sniper is a sleeper, which is to say no one in the movie industry expected it to perform so well at the box office. No less surprising, perhaps, is the film’s skill and conviction—the adroit shifts in time and space, epitomized by an early time-expanding flashback, or the moments of unexpected beauty, as in a sandstorm-shrouded firefight between Kyle’s unit and a group of Iraqi insurgents that occurs late in the film.