As you can probably tell by the title, I found this script a little less than impressive.
Was it a bad? Not really. So what’s my problem? It didn’t “wow” me the way I expect a Oscar nominated film to do.
So here we go, and feel free to chime in or tell me to go to Hell. After all, it’s your right via the internet.
1.) Marketability of the Idea
Based on a book, blah, blah, blah. By now you all more or less know my thoughts on that. (Existing Book Audience = Likely Ticket Sales)
That aside, I was curious about the “legend” of Chris Kyle. The guy’s touted as this incredible sniper, and who doesn’t love a great backstory?
Perhaps that question convinced moviegoers to part ways with their cash, just as reading the script convinced me to give up my time.
So yeah, this “based on” was a no brainer for the big screen.
2.) Plot Stability
There’s A LOT of chatter about what this film does and does not accomplish.
***DISCLAIMER: I DID NOT see the film, and am basing my criticisms on the later version of the script I read. (One I believe was released for awards season.)
The movie portrays the horrors of war!
First off, we have a story called AMERICAN SNIPER, and we only see Chris Kyle snipe on TWO separate occasions. The middle of the film is spent on some quasi-Jack Ryan’esque story about tracking down some local Iraqi thug called, The Butcher, laced with a sniper rivalry between Chris and the mysterious Mustafa and played like a cheap version of Enemy at the Gates.
The ONLY genuine moment I came across was on page 37, where Chris’s CO notices piss stains on the cement, meaning Chris was so locked to his scope wanting to keep the troops safe that he didn’t move all night, literally peeing his pants.
Aside from that, what do we actually experience that is new to the war genre?
Soldiers being graphically killed? Try the opening and closing scenes of Saving Private Ryan.
Sure war is terrible, and most men don’t want to fight it. Shit, read/watch Fury where there’s a scene of a soldier so traumatized by what he’s had to witness that he chooses to blow off his own hand with a grenade rather than going back to the front.
Alright, but it deals with PTSD!
It barely breaches the subject, other than to give us a few “neat” scenes where Chris flashes back via a TV that’s not on, or displays Chris’s discomfort in crowds back “home.”
What was REALLY interesting about him working with veteran’s with PTSD only comes in at the very end, and mainly just give us the conclusion we all know is coming.
Chris chose to work with some veterans by taking them to the range and work on their long range shooting. At first, I thought it was nice, but then I realized he was LITERALLY teaching people who may have some serious mental health issues how to shoot targets with deadly accuracy.
But again, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder has no true relevance in this screenplay aside from the cheap “parlor tricks” mentioned above.
Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely a worthwhile topic, and one we should all discuss, especially with our Senators and Congressmen when it comes to fixing the VA Hospital system, just not important enough for this script to actually take a true stance on.
Well…there’s a love story?
Wait, the one where Taya gets drunk and pukes on Chris’s shoes the first night they meet?
Or when Chris asks her out on a date later only to end up sleeping with her, then deciding the next morning they should get married?
Cut to: WEDDING RECEPTION!!!!…oh, but then he’s instantly shipped off to Iraq.
My sincerest hope is that the real Chris and Taya got to spend actual time together, and although it wasn’t in this script, I again hope there were hints of an actual relationship in the film.
If you think this war isn’t changing you
This is where I had a serious problem, because TECHNICALLY the Taya in the story doesn’t really know Chris because we haven’t been presented with any genuine intimate moments between them.
Flashbacks to my review of 127 Hours that kept sneaking through my brain.
Did it suck the guy had to cut his arm off in that story? Absolutely.
Did it suck that one of the marines Chris Kyle was tying to help shot and killed him? Same answer.
BUT elevating these mediocre stories over completely fictitious ones that handle serious topics better is a real shame, and comes off as pandering.
(Also there’s parts of the story and book, that can’t be confirmed as “true.” The one issue I have is Chris Kyle seemed to enjoy the “legend” nickname. In his book apparently he talks about sniping armed looters from the Superdome during Hurricane Katrina. The problem with this is that the government will neither confirm nor deny, which is almost a free pass. BUT with said incident taking place around the time of Chris Kyle’s tours in Iraq, is the US Armed Forces REALLY spending money to fly him back to stop people from stealing flat screen TVs?) (Source.)
3.) Quality of Characters
Being completely honest? Script Chris Kyle came off as a dick.
God. Country. Family.
(Apparently something the real Chris mentions in his book.)
Personally, I would bump the last to the front because without family the rest doesn’t seem to matter.
But anyway, aside from God, all we really see is a Bible Chris occasionally takes out or puts away.
The story deals with it in a “Rah, Rah, AMERICA!” type way that feels more like a late night Fox News Special, than an actual biopic.
Chris and his cronies literally go on a manhunt dressed up and calling themselves The Punishers in the script blaring 80s rock songs from their humvee. Are you fucking kidding me?
What I was hoping to see, and maybe I should have done a bit of research beforehand, was a sniper who was cursed, becoming a necessary evil.
Instead of feeding off the “legend” it would have been interesting to see a man who saved American lives because he had to, but each “enemy” kill would weigh heavily on him. Pair that with a serious look at how it affects him via PTSD, and now we’ve got something worth discussing.
But, Mr. Eastwood took the “loosely based on” in the opposite direction.
Not to mention the supporting cast of one dimensional soldiers who I wasn’t in any way emotionally attached to when they died.
4.) Dialogue and Description
Description was adequate.
Dialouge was flat.
They say it’ll be over in 6 weeks.
I’m so afraid.
Don’t be afraid. It’s all part of the
He pulls her close, HIS EYES FIXED on someone else–
Your heart is beating out of your chest.
(nods, looking past her)
I’m not the only one going to war.
Seriously? Is Eastwood talking to The Chair again?
Bradley Cooper deserves an award if he was even REMOTELY able to salvage this drivel.
119 pages, typos, but I just didn’t care at this point. I just wanted the script to be over…
6.) What I liked…
That a $58 million film MADE money instead of losing it?
7.) What needs work…
If you’re going to write a script that deals with real life issues FOCUS on that. Don’t attempt to write an action movie that sprinkles in elements of the “based on” just to garner academy votes.
Rating: Read this if you want the CliffsNotes version of the book by the same title.
In the back of my head, I knew what I was in for after reading Chris’s father’s bit about sheep, wolves, and the necessity of sheepdogs.
Most might assume I’m a sheep who’s naïve enough to think evil doesn’t exist in this world.
There’s a difference between acknowledging evil exists, and choosing to let it rule every facet of your life, ignoring the good, the love, the fun, all the wonderful things that make life ACTUALLY worth living.
At the same time, I think we should ask ourselves, at what point do we attempt to stop the evil only to become an aspect of evil ourselves?
In his book, Chris Kyle mentions, “My shots saved several Americans, whose lives were clearly worth more than that woman’s twisted soul. I can stand before God with a clear conscience about doing my job. But I truly, deeply hated the evil that woman possessed. I hate it to this day.” (Source)
(Regarding his first kill, where in the movie, the woman gave the bomb to her son.)
What is his story if not Red Dawn, told from the aspect of a Chinese soldier? If our sovereign nation was invaded by another country, would we not RALLY behind those who joined the Resistance choosing to stand up for our Freedom?
Hell, isn’t that the MAIN argument in support of the 2nd Amendment?
I respect THE HELL out of those men and women who choose to give their lives for our Country, and I understand the need to follow the commands of their superior officers.
Don’t each and every one of them deserve the truth of the WHY they’re being asked to sacrifice for us, not force fed propaganda to fulfill a political agenda?
Want more reviews? Follow this link to our Discuss Screenwriting forum. (Subscription required.)
And be sure to check out our Notes Service, where I give my detailed thoughts and suggestions on your script.