Jean-Paul’s Rating: 3/5 stars
Bottom Line: Good look into the psychology of a soldier. Very strange way to tell a story, but it works. Not sure about the Oscar buzz surrounding the movie.
Here it is Martin Luther King Jr. Day and I’m reviewing a war movie. Oh, the irony. Good news is this is not a movie that glorifies war, though Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) certainly believes in his mission. Chris Kyle was a real person and this movie was based on a book based on his life. There are a lot of soldiers alive today because of his exploits with a sniper rifle. The Navy SEALs trained him to be a killer and he excelled at it and, like so many veterans, he lost his humanity in the process. That’s about as good a one sentence synopsis of the movie as I think you’ll find.
The story is told in jarring clips. We flash from Chris about to make his first human kill to his childhood and killing his first deer. He’s on the phone with his wife when a firefight breaks out then he’s suddenly home with her. Such is the life of a soldier. You hold on to the memories that allow you to keep going and everything else is background noise. It is very strange to watch a movie unfold like this and it’s really only after thinking about it after the fact that I think it worked well.
I did not know going into the movie that this was a true story and knowing that certainly changes how I viewed the movie post-hoc. If this were not a true story, I do not believe there would be any Oscar nominations in the offing. It is still a decently told story and worth seeing, but knowing that there is a person who actually experienced this filters our perceptions immensely. Add to this America’s glorification of the military and our wanting to do everything for our soldiers except give them the equipment they need and the care they deserve and you have yourselves an Oscar nomination or six. It certainly deserves the lesser nominations for screenplay, editing, and mixing, but best picture or best actor? Nah. Bradley Cooper was very good at displaying no emotion whatsoever, but I’m not sure that actually takes much skill as an actor. I see the nominations as more an homage to Chris Kyle’s life.