4 stars
The films of Clint Eastwood are movies people invariably take notice of. Some, like Million Dollar Baby or Letters from Iwo Jima, achieve greatness. Some, such as this story of celebrated war veteran Chris Kyle, are more specific but no less compelling.
Although American Sniper carries the urgency of 'true story', he manages to wrestle events from Kyle's memoir to create something deeply personal that resonates on the broadest human canvas. That knack is what makes Eastwood the exceptional director he is. The trailer, one of the best in years, speaks directly to his formidable talent.

Kyle (Bradley Cooper – American Hustle) just wanted to be a cowboy until the events of 2001 propelled him into the military and he became a Navy SEAL sniper. Turns out he was exceptionally good at it his job, a pinpoint accuracy turning man into legend both in the theatre of war, and back home. The problem for Kyle's family was that he spent precious little time at home, duty and honour calling him back to the battlefield time and again. When he does finally quit the SEALs, Kyle is no longer the man his wife married.

Of itself, this is hardly new. The themes are often told and take us down familiar paths – the horrors of war, the traumas inflicted on service men. Brothers for one, Eastwood's own Flags of our Fathers for another, have covered the ground and covered it well. However this recreation of war in Iraq, the fear and menace of Kyle's trade plus the soldier's complex relationship with ethics, civilians, rebels and insurgents give American Sniper a fresh angle. Foremost, it asks how anyone can kill a man, woman or child then isolate the experience, file it under 'mission' and carry on? Kyle seems quite capable of that and he’s not alone in this moral vacuum built of testosterone and cultural ignorance. One man’s legend is another’s killing machine.

Back in the world his wife (Sienna Miller – The Edge of Love) watches her husband crumble away as she resolutely waits for him to rebuild his life, and return to his family. This modest treatment of PTSD is Eastwood's signature – he's not an hysterical director – and it helps contain much of the tension created in the battlefield. In many regards, that is welcome for those sequences are incredibly tough to bear. Consider a young boy who, in Kyle's cross hairs, picks up a rocket launcher and tries to use the oversized weapon. An emotional cavalcade is released in the heart-stopping moments which follow.

Accordingly American Sniper is not so much a provocative new telling of men at war but a moderate film which adds to our understanding. You may not agree with Kyle, his actions nor his beliefs but you begin to understand why he feels the way he does, why he and thousands of others do what they do. Therein the value of this beautifully crafted and thoughtful film.


Previewed at Roadshow Theatre, Sydney, on 12 January 2015


Bradley Cooper
Sienna Miller
Luke Grimes
Jake McDorman

Clint Eastwood

Jason Hall



132 minutes

January 22, 2015
American Sniper (2014) on IMDb