As Liz mentioned in Leading Off this morning, American Sniper did really well at the box office over the weekend. I saw it and didn’t much care for it. (Peter gave it a B+ over on FrontRow.) Several narrative threads run through the thing, but none of them holds the movie together. Is this a movie about a war hero who doesn’t like being called a hero? Is it a movie about two rival snipers? Is it a movie about a guy struggling with PTSD? I don’t know. And if you say, “Tim, it was a biopic about a real person, and real life is complicated and won’t always satisfy your desire for a tidy narrative arc,” then I will ask you why the movie didn’t explore the strange lies that Chris Kyle told once he’d retired from the military (saying that he whupped Jesse Ventura, saying that he shot Katrina looters from atop the Superdome). That’s complicated.
Anyway, here are two things that really bugged me about the movie. First, there’s a scene where Bradley Cooper is rolling around Iraq in a convoy, talking on a satellite phone to his wife, Sienna Miller, back in Texas. As someone pointed out in our comments, it seems odd that a SEAL would be talking on the phone to wife while he’s out doing his job. Even stranger, though, it is daylight in both places while this conversation happens. If a filmmaker takes that kind of liberty with astronomy, one wonders what other details he has twisted.
Second, there’s a scene where Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller have an argument while they’re caring for their newborn child. It’s a two-minute scene. Instead of using a real baby, the filmmakers used what appears to be a sack of mulch wrapped in a blanket. At one point, Bradley Cooper kind of throws it around like he has forgotten it is supposed to be a baby before realizing that he really ought to cradle its pretend head. This movie has helicopters and explosions and and all manner of CGI. When they added it all up, did the producers tell Clint Eastwood, “That’s too much. We’ve only budgeted $60 million for this thing. Can we save money on the baby?”
I give it a thumb down. American Sniper is not worth a trip to the theater. Wait till you can rent it.