American Sniper is based on the wartime exploits of Chris Kyle (whose autobiography is the film's source material), a sniper regarded as legendary hero in the US army because of his 160 confirmed kills and countless American lives saved because of his actions. American Sniper follows his four tours in Iraq and his attempts to deal with the affects of PTSD following his four tours in Iraq.
Films like American Sniper in which the subject matter is still an ongoing issue are always going to be politically controversial, some of the right wing are likely to treat Chris Kyle as a war hero and see the villain as one-sided as the film itself did whilst the left are going to let their own political agenda get in the way of fully appreciating the film’s aesthetics. Films like Dark Zero Thirty stirred a similar reaction from right and left wing, and as someone who frequently reads left wing newspapers (The Guardian) I am more in tune with left wing viewpoints rather than the right wing viewpoints in regards to Dark Zero Thirty. Left wing accusations that regard Dark Zero Thirty as a film that condoned terrorism are completely unfounded and judging from the film’s content utterly wrong (it was CIA intelligence that found Osama Bin Laden not torture). In the case of American Sniper I'm more inclined to agree with them.
There have been plenty of accusations that Clint Eastwood’s film left out the more controversial aspects of Chris Kyle’s personality (such as his racist views and enjoyment of killing) that would not have made him the hero the film (whether intentionally or not) does seem to present him as. The film doesn’t really debate the rights and wrong of the Iraq War; this isn’t a flaw because the film is about the mind of one, single man fighting in the war rather than a film encompassing the entirety of the Iraq War itself. However, it is slightly concerning how decidedly one faced the film feels, American soldiers can do little wrong whilst the majority of the citizens of the cities invaded by American troops all harbour resentment and desire for bloody revenge.
Politics aside American Sniper is a pretty well made film, the war sequences are brutally efficient, the ducking in and out of houses adds a high level of intensity and the frequent ambush attacks ramps up the tension. The film maybe pro America but it certainly doesn't glorify war itself but it does perhaps give a heroic status to those who fight in such a brutal environment. Here the film doesn’t differ too greatly from the likes of The Hurt Locker in its combat sequences. It is clear American Sniper was heavily influenced by the 2009 Best Picture Winner. Similarly to The Hurt Locker, Eastwood’s American Sniper sub plot focuses on PTSD by showing that American soldiers returning from combat do not leave the war behind instead it follows them, spooking them with everyday noises and changing them as a person.
Bradley Cooper is excellent in the lead role; he has the physique and he brilliantly portrays his character’s distant behaviour in regards to his relationship with his wife (who is also superbly well played by Siena Miller). There are still flaws even when you don’t account for the political, perhaps even moral flaws, the fake baby prop is horrendous and distracting, and the slow motion sniper shot is gimmicky and feels out of tone from the rest of the film.
The biggest issues are the political ones, the decision to leave out the more controversial aspects of Kyle’s character just feels that the movie is outright lying in order the present this guy as a hero. Issues about the film being pro USA, pro intervention and anti Arab are explained by the fact that this film is from the viewpoint of single soldier who fought in the war, but is doesn’t mean that the film is immune to such comments or accusations criticising the film for exactly this. The film is a political one and once it wades into the political debate, it will be criticised and scrutinised for its politics.