American Sniper lives in the shadows of other great war movies

American Sniper lives in the shadows of other great war movies
In this still from the movie, Bradley Cooper portrays American sniper Chris Kyle. This is an opening scene from the movie, and it is one of the more intense scenes in the movie.

A few years ago, we saw a movie where an American soldier stationed in Iraq during the invasion goes through an extreme psychological make over. His continuous success during the war and repeated exposure to it, made it extremely difficult to return to his peaceful life back home. Social life makes him awkward, shopping became an extremely dull chore, and the only thing that made him perk up was when he spoke to his friends from the warfront. That movie was called The Hurt Locker.

Clint Eastwood, however, tried to make an extremely similar film, only much less interesting.

American Sniper is a biography about Chris Kyle, the most successful sniper rifle specialist in Iraq. Kyle’s career in Iraq is very much like the protagonist in The Hurt Locker. Both are prodigies, excel in their work by killing locals and saving Americans, and they both slowly undergo PTSD and are struggling to live in peace after their respective gunplay.

While it’s fine to tell a story that’s been done before, it’s not fine to retell a story in a soulless fashion, such as during the film’s flashbacks to Kyle’s early life, including his decision to join the Seals; all of the scenes feel completely unnecessary. Scenes like when a young Kyle was hunting bucks in the woods with his dad that try to show an early potential in marksmanship can be easily shown on the battlefield.  Another instance is when Kyle’s father explains that there are three kinds of people in the world and  Kyle was going to grow up to be a protector.  These kinds of images are better portrayed on the battlefield. These types of scenes just feel too obvious and heavy-handed. This is a bad habit that this movie has.  The movie tends to talk down to the audience.

While I want to say I dislike “American Sniper,” I can’t deny the movie has good points. “American Sniper” is at its best when the writer has the actors focus on Kyle’s accomplishments in Iraq, and more specifically, when the movie gets into Kyle’s head as a sniper. The movie showed that, as a sniper, he placed himself into a position of omnipotence. Being on top of building, stories above all his comrades, being able to see practically everything on the battlefield, forcing him to carry the safety of his teammates on his shoulders. This also forces a sniper to carry the even heavier burden of deciding who lives and who dies. This is a lot of responsibility that not many people can handle, let alone explain. Yet, the movie shows all of this in a fairly tense and exciting manner.

The rest of the action scenes that don’t involve sniping, while sometimes thrilling, feel like monotonous routines. All they do is remind me of other great scenes from other movies like “Lone Survivor” and “Black Hawk Down.” Plus, Kyle’s character in general remains one-dimensional. This makes it difficult to care when tragedy falls.

The film itself feels as if it gave up trying in the end, when they revealed  shocking details in words, rather than a good visual plot point.  The film is neither award-worthy nor an audience pleasing piece of entertainment.  The movie is weird and awkward combination of both good and bad. In the end, every bullet fired in “American Sniper” serves only to remind you how great the other films were and how one-dimensional this movie is.