Heroes come in many shapes and sizes.
Born and raised in Odessa, Texas, Chris Kyle became a professional rodeo rider until injury forced him to reassess his priorities.
He enlisted with the military and his keen eye - nurtured by his father who taught him to hunt at an early age – set Kyle apart as a sniper.
During four tours of duty in Iraq, he gained the reputation as the most lethal sniper in American military history, with 160 confirmed kills to his name. Such was his notoriety, the enemy nicknamed him ‘The Devil Of Ramadi’ and put a sizeable bounty on his head.
When Kyle eventually returned home, deeply scarred by clashes with insurgents and the deaths of his brothers in arms, he gradually regained his humanity and reconnected with his family by working with veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.
In a bitter twist, having survived Iraq, Kyle was killed by one of those traumatised veterans on a Texas shooting range.
His achievements are celebrated in Clint Eastwood’s impeccably crafted biopic, which opens on a rooftop in Iraq with Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) staring down a telescopic sight as a woman and her young son emerge from a building.
Tensions steadily cranks up as Kyle places his finger on the trigger.
‘They’ll fry you if you’re wrong,’ warns his compatriot Goat-Winston (Kyle Gallner).
We rewind initially to Chris’ childhood, where he learns how to handle a gun with his father Wayne (Ben Reed).
‘You’re going to make a fine hunter some day,’ says the old man tenderly.
When dreams of bull-riding turn sour, Chris enlists and he meets Taya (Sienna Miller) in a bar.
They marry and she raises their family alone while Chris fights overseas and attempts to outwit an elusive rival sniper called Mustafa (Sammy Sheik).With each successive tour, Chris returns home unable to communicate effectively with his loved ones.
‘I need you to be human again,’ pleads Taya. ‘I need you to be here.’
American Sniper unfolds from Kyle’s fervently patriotic perspective and the lack of narrative balance might trouble some audiences.
Eastwood is more interested here in the psychology of a father and husband than wading through the murky politics and morality of modern warfare.
Battle sequences are choreographed with meticulous precision and Cooper, who bulked up for the role, affects a drawl to perfection as he conveys the demons that haunt Kyle and drive him further from the people that love him the most.
Miller is solid in a meaty supporting role, reminding Chris of his responsibilities to his family as well as his country.
‘I’m making memories by myself. I have no one to share them with,’ sobs Taya.
Kyle’s memory is polished to a lustre by Eastwood’s film.