Let me start by clarifying my word selection. 'American Sniper' is not a film; it's a movie. The shame of it is that Chris Kyle deserved the latter. I don't blame Bradley Cooper as his performance was one of the strong points present in the project, though Clint Eastwood may have some explaining to do. One does not embark upon such a heavy endeavor without being sure that all bases are covered tastefully. It wasn't a complete abortion, but I expected much more. Before you continue reading allow me to warn you of the spoilers present in my assessment. I do not care about ruining any surprises for you. If you don't already know the ending then you haven't read the book, don't watch the news, and probably should stay home to masturbate to screenshots from a Clive Owen shoot-'em-up. 'American Sniper' was not supposed to be an action flick. It was supposed to honor a fallen hero--which brings me to another point. I'm not going to argue the pros and cons of any war we've sent men and women to recently. Any person who puts his life on the line so his buddies can make it home in one piece is a hero. Those in combat understand that mentality. When bullets are flying, it ain't about God, Country, Family. It's about the terrified bastard next to you in the foxhole with piss-soaked pants and not enough ammunition remaining.
There were some blatantly cheesy foul balls. The fact that a real infant could not be located for the family scene is appalling. That rigid piece of rubber used to represent a human child was about as realistic as one of those 1990s dolls that shit and pissed after some snot-nosed brat fed it fake food. Why would anyone want that thing anyway? Little girls are weird, which makes sense since they grow to be crazy women. Also, the 21-gun salute during the SEAL funeral was lackluster. While I appreciated the M14 being used for the tradition, the fact that the rifle closest to the camera did not actually fire once was too obvious for me to forgive. Shooting blanks is not that dangerous. Just ask someone who's had a vasectomy. The massive, Mummy-esque sandstorm which conveniently conjures itself during the final battle scene made me cringe with vicarious embarrassment, right down to the desperate hand-grabbing rescue of Chief Kyle as he ran to catch up to a briskly departing vehicle. I did appreciate the symbolism of the pocket Bible and bolt-action rifle being left behind in the dust, however. Chris was done hunting his demons--in this case the elusive enemy sniper who'd taken countless lives, American and otherwise. Therein lies another problematic sliver of the movie. The masked sharpshooter (who happens to be an Olympic marksmanship champion from Syria) scurries out of his bachelor pad to leap from rooftop to rooftop like a half-ninja version of Aladdin from the Sega Genesis days. Is that supposed to be believable? Even my girlfriend called bullshit on that one, and she's never shot a high-power sniper rifle, let alone pranced around with one after receiving a phone call as to the whereabouts of an American with a $180,000 bounty on his head. Speaking of head, allow me to back up. Since when would a redneck come home from a rodeo to find his girl having her back blown out by another goat-roping gentleman, only to kick him out politely sans ass-whooping? Since never. That's when. He tells her to pack her shit and leave, cracks a beer, and brainstorms with his asshole buddy on what is presumably the Meaning of Life (in Texas, where everything's allegedly bigger). I've seen 'Cops'. That's not how that story ends. There are at least 17 stitches involved and a few poorly-worded accusations to follow up said fisticuffs. I could go on ripping this movie a new sphincter, but I feel my point's been made. I admire the man, appreciate his sacrifice, and hoped for something better.
Here's the good part: They didn't show him getting killed. I feel that added a level of respect for the man which may have been desecrated by the corny one-liners Clint must have chuckled at from the director's chair. The date is shown during that final scene so even those who went blindly into the theater know that something's about to "pop off". The creeper vibe of the murderous Marine is evident. The face Mrs. Kyle makes while seeing her husband off in the doorway alludes to our protagonist's fate. And then the portion that moved me commences. The file footage from the funeral procession and memorial service brought me back to the reality that I'd sat in that chair to see. This was not a man with a .308, a Hollywood hard-on, and Zach Galifawhateverthefuck's number in his cell phone. This was a real-life hero who died in the line of helping a brother in distress, though the soil was not from a foreign battlefield. PTSD is a very real issue that our society does not fully acknowledge, though I fear that in decades to come we will hear comparisons made to those who went to 'Nam and came back as shells of their prior selves. Bradley Cooper, for all his hungover tomfoolery, nailed this transformation.
Short version: Read the book. Watch 'The Hurt Locker' instead.