The screenplay for American Sniper is based on the book of the same name, co-written by Chris Kyle (with Scott McEwen and Jim DeFelice). It was written less than a year after Kyle came back from his fourth tour of duty in Iraq. The autobiography was a bestseller, spending 18 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list.
Known as the “Legend”, Kyle became a hero in Texas. He emerged from the war in Iraq as the most lethal sniper in the history of the U.S. military. Although his prowess as a sniper features in the film, the focus is on Kyle’s personal life.
We first meet Kyle as a young boy out hunting with his father. Leadership is something his father acknowledges early on as a character trait in his son. It provides the motivation for Kyle to train as a Navy SEAL. The training scenes are some of the most harrowing in the film. It is just after Kyle has completed his training that he meets Taya and they marry. Shortly after, Kyle is deployed to Iraq leaving behind his pregnant wife. Three more tours of duty follow.
Every time Kyle (Bradley Cooper) comes back from Iraq he finds it harder to adjust to family life. Suburban noises such as a lawnmower or a car backfiring spook him. Increasingly his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) is unable to penetrate her husband’s armour. He is removed from the family even when he is with them. Kyle is dedicated to serving his country but is also desperate to be a good husband and father.
Cooper is barely recognisable. He packed on 40 pounds to play the role and worked out with a personal trainer. Miller too undergoes a transformation leaving behind her trademark blonde locks to become a brunette.
As with all Clint Eastwood films there is plenty of action but it is the relationships that are central to this story. A brilliant portrayal of one man’s struggle to leave war behind.
American Sniper is in cinemas this Thursday.
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