The yearly Clint Eastwood-Oscar bait freight train rolls right along through the end of 2014.
Based on the book of the same name, Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is a good ol' Texas boy who, along with his younger brother, are taught tough lessons by their father; Chris in particular, doing a good job of hunting with his dad. While performing rodeos in Texas, Chris attracts the attention of Taya Renae; (Sienna Miller) both hitting it off immediately. Early into their relationship, Chris decides to give up on the rodeo gig and enlists for the Navy SEALs.
Alternating between the multiple tours of duty overseas and his ever-increasingly troubled home life, director Clint Eastwood never gives the film time to establish either story the film is trying to tell. While in Iraq, Chris is teamed with a group of soldiers, yet none of them are able to be properly set-up in an attempt to distinguish one from another. Some of these soldiers die, yet you never really feel the loss that Chris does because the audience has never been given the proper time to be invested with Chris' core group of soldiers.
When not continuing on with his kill-count, Chris and Taya's relationship strains further and further as they become an ever-growing family. Yet, when at home, the and the trouble Chris has with being a normal civilian never rings true as their is no angst; just Chris not being able to handle his time away from military duty. The tension that should be in these scenes falls flat as, instead of watching someone deteriorate before our eyes, it instead feels like an afterthought that Chris just can't handle a normal life anymore. This is not a knock on either Bradley Cooper or Sienna Miller, as I felt both did a solid job.
The script, adapted by Jason Hall, does not allow the film to take any chances nor allow us to invest with anybody in the film besides Chris and, to a lesser extent, Taya. Not having read the book, the script feels very rudimentary in its pacing; choosing to play safe and not take any chances either when: Chris is in Iraq or at home. The typical cliches are there, including: making difficult decisions when sniping, not wanting to leave the war, trouble adapting back home, etc. The actual story behind Chris Kyle is more interesting than the script provided. I'm sure not too many liberties were taken with the source material, but the script could have taken a less cliched route.
As with most Clint Eastwood films he has directed, the film is established well and tight in the overall narrative. Even though the film feels tight, what American Sniper really lacked was tension. Everything from the opening sequence where Chris has to decide if he is going to kill a mother and child to the climax in a sandstorm felt derived of tension. If anything, I expected Clint Eastwood to deliver some white-knuckle moments with the sniping scenes, yet I never sat on the edge of my seat. As stated on the wonderful Karina's review, "A definite cinema watch, but it is by no means a classic".
The movie itself is not terrible, yet is not great either. It's very middle of the road, and with a story like this and the talent involved, being middle of the road may be worse than being terrible.
Oh yeah, and there's the fake baby too...