American Sniper ★★½

This is what sloppy filmmaking looks like.

First, the technical. The plot meanders and never drives home any clear message except “this guy was a hero.” There are other messages in there - about the toll of war on an emotional and relationship level, or even what the whole point of the Iraq engagement is - but none of that stuff gets distilled into something that holds value. There’s terrible visual effects - inexcusable in this day and age for what amounts to very easy post-production - and horrendous prop work. And there’s little to no character development that didn’t seem like it came out of the plot of an episode of G.I. Joe - seriously, there’s a villain named The Butcher (and guess what he’s known for), and a parkour ninja sniper villain with ham-fistedly parallel traits to our protagonist.

It’s just… unforgivable. Unforgiven? (Sorry.)

But there’s some good work on the reel as well. There’s pretty solid action set pieces, and stunning performances - Bradley Cooper, obviously, and Sienna Miller who I always forget how much I like until I see her again. And while there’s not a whole lot of clarity in the messages being delivered, at least there’s some counterpoint to the American hoo-ah in many, many places. That is, until the epilogue of this story which plays like a junior high school student’s powerpoint presentation about why his uncle is his idol.

I’m not a fan of Eastwood’s voice, or the way he crafts a film, and this isn’t really an exception to his oeuvre. There’s a lot of redeeming stuff in this film that just gets overshadowed by how distasteful and poorly-produced the rest of it is. But on that note, I’m not as eager to jump on the American Patriot Pride™ hate-wagon that I’m reading elsewhere, because I actually think Eastwood showed some restraint in his approach… if only you can forget the closing credit roll attached to this thing.