American Sniper ★★★

I wasn’t looking forward to seeing American Sniper. I didn’t expect it to be terrible, I just expected it to be another war movie about a guy struggling to come to terms with life outside of warfare, and I was right. Pretty much everything here was done better in The Hurt Locker. Bradley Cooper is good-but-not-amazing as Navy SEAL Chris Kyle, the deadliest sniper in American military history, but there was a lot missing from the story overall to make it compelling. I could have used more Sienna Miller, who was surprisingly effective as Kyle’s concerned wife back home, and proves she’s more than just an incredibly beautiful actress by handling the emotional scenes very well, especially a phone conversation that becomes one-sided far earlier than planned. The end of the film felt very abrupt and jarring – I didn’t know the full facts before going in – which perhaps was intentional given the nature of what happens, but elsewhere many elements felt manufactured and structured to better suit a narrative than the real life they were based on, such as Kyle’s rivalry with an enemy sniper, who in reality he apparently never actually encountered. Ordinarily I wouldn’t mind slight bending of facts to make a story more entertaining and engaging, but when such a big deal was made of adapting the true story of a very recent prominent figure, it seems disingenuous to change such large portions of his story. I can understand why this was nominated for most of the awards it was earlier this year, but I’m not surprised by how few it won.