If you haven’t seen it yet, don’t waste your time. Openings don’t get more frank than that.
So you’ve probably heard of the critically acclaimed American Sniper, which is blowing up in theatres right now. So much so, in fact, that the movie is breaking box-office records, and has already been nominated for Oscars. With that kind of hype, you know it has to be good.
Except it isn’t. I don’t know where the hype came from, but in my humble opinion, it is hugely misplaced. The movie must have had some amazing publicity, even better than The Interview to have garnered such international attention. And for all the hype it generated, it let viewers down even more than the aforementioned movie did, which is really saying something.
War movies are usually worth watching. If not somewhat enlightening, they are almost always entertaining. Hell, if nothing else, at least they’re better than most other movie genres – you won’t be bored, that’s for sure. But American Sniper wasn’t like any other war movie, in that it did exactly the opposite. It was an extremely mediocre film, one that isn’t worth watching on the big screen. I’m of the opinion that it only blew up because of the director, Clint Eastwood, and the premise behind the movie – one man becomes a national hero in times of great distress. It universally makes for a great story, but it wasn’t the case for this movie.
In a word, the movie was boring. And that’s one word you almost never associate with war movies. But the ennui brought upon by this movie was relentless – the only let-up, I would say, was in the opening scene. The rest of the movie (including action scenes) were nothing special. The movie didn’t keep the audience on edge, and was utterly predictable at some points – another thing you hope you can’t associate with a war movie. I remember watching The Hurt Locker a few years ago when it came out; that puts American Sniper to shame. I found it hard to watch because of the unbelievable amount of tension created by the film – it really made your heart beat throughout the entirety of the film. Or there was Zero Dark Thirty, which had an intricate plot and several twists which made the movie exciting and enjoyable. American Sniper didn’t have any tension at all. Even the moments which were supposed to be tense just didn’t hit home with the audience. Maybe it was because of poor character development, I don’t know. Maybe it was because it was utterly predictable. And definitely because these factors made the crux of the problem – the audience couldn’t empathize with the hero, which is something a war movie is no good without. Well, at least I didn’t feel any empathy for the hero. And I should have, and having read up a little bit about him online, I do now. But the movie didn’t make me do so, and that’s a problem.
I’ll even go so far as to say the movie grossly oversimplified the life of a soldier. Something all movies are guilty of, to be sure, but this one a little bit more than most. Not being able to empathize with the protagonist is some evidence suggesting this is true. The movie did cover multiple aspects of the hero’s life, but in the end, it all felt a little too forced, and nowhere near genuine enough. We know what to expect when we think about the lives of soldiers, but this movie didn’t really expand our depth of understanding on the whole issue. When you consider which war this was depicting, I think it could have gone a lot more into depth than it did on the complex nature of the lives of soldiers doing their duty for their nations, but it failed to deliver.
I won’t comment on the accuracy of the material presented, because I don’t know enough about it to be able to do so without making myself seem like an ignorant fool. I will say this, though: if there are actual soldiers criticizing the movie, then there must be something amiss, if not in the presentation of the material, then in the material itself. But that’s another story, one that’s probably better worth pursuing through Google than it is through here.
In conclusion, American Sniper was nothing more than average. It wasn’t terrible, to be sure; it only felt that way because of the massive hype and frenzy generated by the media on the movie. The acting and directing and plot were all mediocre – they certainly didn’t constitute watching it in a movie hall, as most war movies do. But most war movies have intense action, fascinating intricate plots, and profound messages – this movie really had none of that. It was, in short, as boring and drab as this review may seem, and hopefully just as accurate, as well. I’ll rate it at a 6.5/10. Again, if you haven’t seen it yet, there are a lot better movies begging your attention. Unfortunately, all American Sniper did was fire blanks.