Through decades of acting, producing and directing films, the words “Clint Eastwood” have transcended from just a man’s name to evoking the image of a Hollywood powerhouse. As an actor, he forged the mold of the modern Hollywood tough guy with the occasional stopover of light-hearted comedy. As Eastwood matured, so too did his films. The director has never shied away from a subject, either in politics with J. Edgar, the brutal world of female boxing in Million Dollar Baby or one of the touchiest subjects in society: war. Whether talking comedically with Heartbreak Ridge, being very serious and even critical in Flags of Our Fathers or actually telling a story from the enemies’ perspective in Letters from Iwo Jima, Eastwood crafts his stories of war as tests of the human spirit and one’s sense of duty, with the hero eventually emerging from an unsuspected character or obtuse angle. Now, approaching his 85th birthday, Eastwood delivers another war hero epic with his 37th directorial credit, American Sniper.
After packing on a whopping 30 pounds, Bradley Cooper (American Hustle) certainly delivers a standout, possibly career performance in his portrayal of legendary Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle. Though Sienna Miller (Factory Girl), delivers a poignant performance as Taya Kyle, this film definitely belongs to Cooper.
In a recent issue of Variety Magazine, author and Iraq war veteran Paul Rieckhoff, CEO and founder of Irag and Afghanistan Veterans of America, said, “Now, it’s not the most complex film. Not the deepest film. Not even the most provocative. But in terms of storytelling, action, emotion, production and performance, attention to detail and especially the frighteningly accurate soundscape, there’s been nothing else close that’s been made since my platoon entered the war in Iraq.” This sums up the movie perfectly.
As a war epic, American Sniper hits its mark. This film’s only detriment is its seemingly singular definition of heroism. After four tours of duty in Iraq, Kyle finally returns home to his wife and children to face his greatest challenge: reintegrating himself into non-combat civilian life to become the father and husband he started out to be before 9/11. He did this through helping his fellow servicemen stateside as best he could. “‘Mow a vet’s lawn, help them deal with their groceries, do anything,’” his wife quoted him in a recent article. The only place Eastwood missed his mark is when he failed to mention that in real life, Kyle’s wife founded the Chris Kyle Frog Foundation to help veterans everywhere. In the movie, Eastwood spends little time and focus on the selfless acts of heroism for which Kyle is also known.
Kyle definitely served his country in his mission as a SEAL Team sniper with an exceptional performance. He should be remembered most certainly for saving exponentially more lives, combat and noncombat alike, than he is credited for taking. American Sniper is a must-see, but just remember that if a smooth sea doesn’t a good captain make, then a high body count doesn’t necessarily a hero make.
Print headline: American hero?; The new Clint Eastwood movie is a drama that focuses on an American Iraq War hero who killed many enemy combatants during his tours of duty.