American Sniper

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

American Sniper  (2014)

When we first meet Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper), a U.S. Navy Seal sniper, he is on top of a rooftop protecting the lives of American soldiers on the ground below him. Chris must make the agonizing decision on whether to shoot a woman on the street that is moving menacingly toward U.S. troops on the road below. If he shoots an unarmed woman, who is with her son, it could mean the end of his career. If he doesn’t shoot her, and she ends up with a bomb that kills American soldiers, Chris will never be able to live with himself. This is Chris’s job, and he is the best sniper that America has ever had but that doesn’t make it any easier to make the right call.

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American Sniper

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

While Chris is making his decision, we get flashbacks to see how Chris got to this point in his life. At one-point Chris wanted to be a cowboy, going from one small-town rodeo to another. Chris’s life changes when 9/11 happens and he decides, along with his brother to join the military. Not only does Chris join the military, but he joins one of the toughest branches of the military, the Navy Seals. It’s soon discovered that Chris is one of the best shots in the Navy, and he is promoted to sniper. It’s a job he will excel at but one that will cost him.

This Clint Eastwood directed film is based on a true story of Chris Kyle, a sniper who had more than 300 kills during his career. I liked this film, but I felt that it’s not Eastwood’s best effort. It seems more workmanlike, where each shot is set up for the broadest coverage, with not a lot of creativity in shot placement. After the opening sequence with Chris trying to decide to kill the woman or not, which is brilliant filmmaking, the movie moves more into a slow, deliberate pace. I will say this, this is Eastwood’s most graphic film. The war is depicted very realistically with lots of sweat, blood and body parts. Eastwood has made sure we know that war is hell and incredibly tough on the soldiers who fight it. There is a scene with a warlord killing off a villager that is so graphic it’s very hard to watch and extremely moving. The action sequences are well done and incredibly realistic. The trend lately has been for the big action films to feel like giant video games, but Eastwood does make us believe that this is a real war with dire consequences. But too often the film drags a bit and starts to feel like something out of the superhero genre, as Chris spends a good part of the second half of the film trying to catch and kill an enemy sniper who is causing almost as much damage as Chris does for the enemy. It makes the film feel a little unreal, something that was the strong point of the first half of the film.

American Sniper

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

The center of this film is Bradley Cooper, who gives one of his finest performances to date as the heroic and tortured solider, whose love of country drives everything he does. Cooper is magnificent in the role, whether he is in the war itself or dealing with its ramifications during his time back in America. This is Cooper’s film; he is on the screen almost the whole film, and he shows that he can carry the weight. There is an incredibly moving scene near the end of the film as Cooper expresses over a satellite phone with his wife, his need to get out of the service and come home. It has an unbelievable impact, and I am sure that many in the audience will shed a tear or two at that point. Cooper has incredible chemistry with Sienna Miller, who plays his wife in the film. Their scenes, especially the early ones when they first meet and start dating are brilliant as they start to know each other, deciding if this person is the one for them. I loved the two of them together on the screen, and felt a little cheated when the storyline didn’t explore in detail their lives after Chris got out of the military.

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American Sniper

Photo courtesy of Warner Brothers

“American Sniper” is worthy of seeing because of Bradley Cooper but I don’t think this is Eastwood’s best and certainly not worthy of a Directors Oscar. If the film had kept of the tension and the creativity of its opening scenes, it could have been a great film but in my eyes, it doesn’t sustain the quality or the tension of those early scenes. It’s a film, that with a better script, would have been worthy of its subject.  My Rating: Bargain Matinee

My movie rating system from Best to Worst:  1). I Would Pay to See it Again  2). Full Price  3). Bargain Matinee  4). Cable  5). You Would Have to Pay Me to See it Again

“American Sniper” Website

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