I didn’t like Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper. And I usually have great interest in his work ever since I saw Million Dollar Baby. I didn’t like Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. But Million Dollar Baby stayed with me. The slowly unfolding of events and the deliberate pacing, the steady creep of the narrative, until its dramatic climax — that stayed with me. I was always watchful.
And then I saw Gran Torino and I felt like there was a director here that I could trust.
Then I saw American Sniper and now I’m not so sure anymore.
My biggest problem with the film is its storytelling — the usage of erratic editing to try and juggle two different stories (though they are integral and intertwined) but because Eastwood never lets any of the scenes settle in, we cannot grasp the full emotional depths of each moment. Following a chronological timeline, he jumps from home life to the main character’s tour of duties (he has several) and one is a story about a man disconnected from his family and life in general and the other is a movie about war.
I felt that the film was unable to tell a proper story of either of these themes.
And if you want to watch movies about war, I’d just go straight up to Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line and just leave it at that. As a poet and a philosopher to write a movie about war and you’ll get The Thin Red Line and that’s all you have to see.
No, American Sniper could have benefitted greatly with Clint Eastwood’s usual deliberate, slow, and steady pacing and allowing the story unfold as it had to. This was an experiment in style that did not work and does not best suit his directorial sensibilities. He just doesn’t have the tempo for it.