American Sniper Review

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By: Justin jasso (@jjasso007)



Clint Eastwood: the man, the myth, the legend. He’s been acting since 1955 (most of us weren’t even born, nor our parents) and directing since 1971. It wasn’t until the 2000s that his directing began receiving the credit it deserved with films such as Mystic River, Million Dollar Baby, Flags of our Fathers, Invictus, etc. His last two films have been, more or less, bombs at the box-office, but he’s back to form with the story of the most decorated Navy SEAL sniper in American history. Eastwood brings the autobiography penned by that very sniper, Chris Kyle, to life onscreen with American Sniper.

March 2003, in a small town near Nasiriya, Iraq. Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) is positioned on top of a building as U.S. forces comb a street. A woman and child walk out of a door ahead and through his scope, Kyle sees the woman hand the child a grenade. Kyle asks for confirmation but none can be given, and he has the green light. But if he’s wrong, he’s chief says, “They’ll fry you if you’re wrong – they’ll send you to Leavenworth.” As the child approaches the American convoy, does Kyle take the shot?

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Such is the tension set up in the opening scene of the film to which we then flash back to see Kyle as a child, learning to shoot, his motivation to join the military, the person he is, and his relationship with his wife Taya (Sienna Miller) through it all. A protector by nature, Kyle enlists to protect American citizens and soldiers as well as his family. He is not one to give up, becoming a member of the elite Navy SEALs. Through his tours, he becomes a legend in his own right, known throughout the military world. But the things a soldier experiences in war, the actions they commit, and the psychological damage it takes, can Kyle function in the civilian world once it’s all said and done?

After the initial sequence, the film jettisons off at a frenetic pace from Kyle’s childhood, his military training, his relationship with Taya, and eventual marriage, to hearing he was going to Iraq. Eastwood chose to give this portion of the story a gloss-over, seeing as the film is over two hours in length and wanting to focus on the aspects of war and the drama that comes with being a human amidst such horror. Eastwood is back to his directing excellence, showing us that a camera on a tripod can be masterful when filming a war opposed to shaky, handheld camera shots. We are with Kyle positioned at spots above the cities and we’re with him when he decides to go in on foot with his brothers, door to door, street to street. Eastwood shows us the bonds that are formed between soldiers, the brotherhood they develop, and the pains war takes on everyone, especially with the loss of one of their own. The tension is high, the threats are real and each corner turned, each door breached can turn into a nightmare.

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American Sniper falls squarely on Cooper’s shoulders, and no disrespect to his performances in Silver Linings Playbook or American Hustle, but this is his best performance to date. Cooper is almost unrecognizable in his portrayal of Kyle. Not only did he put on weight and bulk up for the role, but he’s also missing is his normal charm and quick wit, replaced with a big, protective nature and by a man who is able to protect others but is afraid to admit his own personal demons which torment him. For great actors, there comes a transformative role – a role in which the actor transcends “playing” a role to “becoming” the part. This was his and, come Academy Award season, he should be in consideration for an Oscar. Sienna Miller is also unrecognizable as Taya, giving her character depth with the material she has as a wife who is without her husband as he’s gone for four tours.

American Sniper is both one of Eastwood’s best films and, arguably, Cooper’s best performance. There is no political preaching in the film nor is there any hate one way or the other. This film doesn’t try to preach what is right or what is wrong, who is at fault or who is to blame. Instead the focus is on the characters, on Chris Kyle, on the pain and struggles war puts on one person, on one’s brothers in arms, on one’s family at home, and what it is soldiers have to deal with once they return home. American Sniper gives a fresh perspective on what a war does to a human and reminds us to appreciate the freedoms we have and about the respect that every man and woman serving in the military absolutely deserves. R.I.P Chris Kyle.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars


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