Movie Review: American Sniper

Movie Review: American Sniper

American Sniper is a seriously disturbing insight into the tactics of the Islamic insurgency in Iraq and the effects on the men sent to combat them. It centres on the faith a husband and wife must work at to sustain their marriage, but it also shines a light on the grace that undergirds everything. Bradley Cooper […]

By Mark HadleyWednesday 21 Jan 2015MoviesReading Time: 4 minutes

American Sniper is a seriously disturbing insight into the tactics of the Islamic insurgency in Iraq and the effects on the men sent to combat them. It centres on the faith a husband and wife must work at to sustain their marriage, but it also shines a light on the grace that undergirds everything.

Movie Review: American Sniper 
Bradley Cooper stars in the Clint Eastwood film as Chris Kyle, the most lethal sniper in US military history. The film runs on two tracks, the first being his decision to enlist in the war on terror and his recruitment as a SEAL at the advanced age of 30. The second is his developing relationship with Taya (Sienna Miller), the woman who would eventually become Mrs Kyle and the mother of his children. Eastwood does as expert a job as ever following the tensions set up by these two tracks. Four tours of duty take him to lethal hot spots like Ramadi, Fallujah and Sadr City, exposing him to the terrorising tactics Islamists employed against the local inhabitants, as well as the difficult moral decisions that reside on the end of a gun sight. And over those same tours his home life is heating up as he struggles to communicate with Taya, and she comes to terms with the fact that a conflict a world away is transforming the man in her kitchen:

Taya: “I’m making memories by myself.”

Chris: “Well, we’ve got our whole lives for that.”

Taya: “When does that start?”

Chris: “They [his comrades] can’t wait. We can.”

Taya: “If you think this war isn’t changing you, you’re wrong. You can only circle the flames for so long.”

Hope 103.2 is proudly supported by

Be warned, American Sniper is a brutally honest film. It never strays into Tarantino-esque orgies of violence but neither does it shy away from the realities of war. It might be considered a reasonable companion piece to The Hurt Locker, and it’s likely to enjoy similar Oscar success. Yet there is one reality it missed almost entirely. Cooper presents us with a man who is hardened by the suffering he sees and who struggles to rise above it for his family’s sake. However American Sniper offers little explanation for where his moral centre comes from or the strength to put it to use, apart from highlighting Kyle’s highly developed patriotism and a duty to defend the weak. Yet there are stray shots of the sniper’s Bible and an early scene of him at church that hint at a more important motivator.

In his biography the real Chris Kyle expressed a great range of emotions about how he felt about his lethal occupation. Yet alongside this he recounts a history of being raised in a Christian church, with a deacon as a father and a sincere belief that life should be prioritized with God first, followed by family and country. The last two he freely confesses he took a long time to get straight. His biography also makes it clear that Kyle had a lot of attitudes worth challenging. For some he was far too dismissive about the people he executed and even over-eager to deal out judgment. 

However one thing is certain. The real Kyle knew how the universe actually worked and the God who could be trusted with life and death issues. Leaving this out of American Sniper creates a real blind-spot for the viewer. So I think the best thing I could do to finish this review is provide a direct quote from the book on which the film is supposed to be based:

“I am a strong Christian. Not a perfect one—not close. But I strongly believe in God, Jesus, and the Bible. When I die, God is going to hold me accountable for everything I’ve done on earth. He may hold me back until last and run everybody else through the line, because it will take so long to go over all my sins. “Mr. Kyle, let’s go into the backroom. . . .” Honestly, I don’t know what will really happen on Judgment Day. But what I lean toward is that you know all of your sins, and God knows them all, and shame comes over you at the reality that He knows. I believe the fact that I’ve accepted Jesus as my savior will be my salvation. But in that backroom or whatever it is when God confronts me with my sins, I do not believe any of the kills I had during the war will be among them.”

You may not agree with Kyle’s decisions, but you cannot fault his Gospel.

Rating: MA15+
Distributor: Roadshow
Release Date: January 22