American Sniper Review – Does it deserve an Oscar?

sniper2American Sniper met my expectations, which is not necessarily a good thing.  It’s a great story and has a well-written script, when the movie isn’t too concerned about wallowing in realism and grit by having everyone use as much colorful language as possible.  Honestly, very little happens in the movie, but what does happen makes for great character development, which you could see on Bradley Cooper’s face the whole time, as Chris Kyle struggled with his experiences overseas.  I can see why Cooper was nominated for an Oscar, as his performance is great, the perfect portrayal of a man traumatized by war.

sniper1American Sniper’s script is definitely one of the best of the year.  It has complex characters and real social dynamics.  I could do without people swearing every other word, but that’s what this movie is.  It doesn’t hide anything.  The characters are the ones who hide.  Specifically, it is Chris Kyle who hides from his traumatic experiences.  His wife gets more desperate for him to open up as the movie goes on, which is a good touch, and he finally does at the end, although it is to other veterans and not to his family.  We never get that monologue from Cooper about how war is hell, because that’d be a move typical of a generic thriller, and this one is anything but typical.

As we watch Chris Kyle progress through four tours, we’re right there with him as he experiences everything.  We’re on the roof as he’s peering down at everyone, scoping out targets as he tries to save people, as he says later.  I think the best scene is when he becomes frantic when a boy runs onto the street and looks down at an RPG, which a dead man has lying next to him.  Kyle peers down his sights at the kid, begging him not to pick it up.  We can see Kyle’s anguish and desperation, because he knows he’ll have to shoot the kid if he picks up the weapon.  I didn’t want it to go bad either, so I was right there with him, feeling the anguish too.  It’s perfectly done.

sniper4This is a depressing movie.  It’s not fun.  I didn’t root for him to shoot anybody and I don’t think we’re supposed to have a good time as he protects the troops with his well-placed shots.  It’s just brutal. The movie is heavy with the emotion, but the dialogue is light and almost non-existent in places.  Nobody monologues.  There’s really no philosophical speeches.  Still, we learn all we need through the character exchanges that take place throughout the movie, and there are a hell of a lot of character exchanges.  Cooper talks to his wife, his friends, his superior officer,  his brother, his kids, and his military pals.  There’s a lot of supporting characters, but I’m not sure if that’s good or bad.

The cinematography is good and what you might expect from a war movie.  There wasn’t anything surprising about that.  I was more surprised about the way the movie threatens you with trauma, then either delivers on the emotion or saves it for later.  The story about a sniper isn’t as boring as I thought, because as we wait for something to happen, the movie builds the tension at the same time.

All in all, this is a good movie, however I think it is the closest race in a while for Best Picture.  It does have the emotional factor, and Bradley Cooper deserves his nomination for Best Actor of the year.  I would say the best scenes in the movie are the rooftop sniper scene I mentioned earlier, and the dust cloud scene.  This movie has a lot to be proud of, and it slugs you with emotion to become one of the best movies of the year.