A well admired film of 2014, the life of Chris Kyle is well followed and documented in the U.S. due to his notorious title as the most deadly sniper in their military history, which is the basis for this film. As Kyle (Bradley Cooper) leaves and returns on each of his three tours, he becomes a more and more changed man; once he has seen the terrifying extent their enemy will go to hurt and kill them, finding his place back at home is increasingly difficult. It’s one story of many, soldiers returning with post traumatic stress disorder and struggling to adapt, and the sadness that there isn’t a definitively successful way to help them.
Though it was a highly acclaimed performance by Cooper, realistically it is seen through a rare few short moments of emotion rather than a 2 hour masterclass. It may be a departure from the majority of roles that Cooper is known for, but it focuses mostly on being serious, focused and committed to the job and service; I am not undermining this as a very simple task but it is something that has been done repeatedly and it doesn’t appear there is much to separate this one performance from the rest. With his main counterpart being Sienna Miller who, though I’ve seen several times on both stage and screen, I can never shake the feeling that she’s not a top class actress, she feels more like a second string player. Not to say her performance is of a low quality, it is decent enough to match Cooper, but the two of them could have turned this into a powerhouse of acting but it just doesn’t happen.
The acting may be nothing spectacular but the real star of this story, is the story itself and the life of a remarkable man; it is both captivating and tragically honest (to a certain extent). By this point most people will have an awareness if not more than that, of how warfare is accomplished in the modern world and especially in countries like Iraq, though no matter the amount that appears in the media, it is no less visually traumatic and being desensitized to it is simply not an option. The amount of soldiers that return with mental illnesses, as well as physical injuries, is testament to that fact and is the sad truth of the consequences of war, but it is undeniably captivating when a story of that is recreated. I’m not sure that it creates any benefit for the cause it’s using, other than perhaps increasing awareness but regardless it makes for a good film.
The film is great, but there is definite question whether it could have been improved with the use of a Gyllenhaal or a Damon, a Hathaway, a Lawrence or a Chastain. It’s well worth watching and possibly not just a one time watch; it’s a cut above the average but I’m not so sure it hit it out of the park.