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Review: American Sniper

American Sniper
12.21.2014
8 10

PLOT: The life of U.S Navy Seal sniper Chris Kyle (Bradley Cooper) the most lethal sniper in U.S military history. We follow Kyle through his four tours in Iraq, to his struggles on the home front and relationship with his devoted wife (Sienna Miller).

REVIEW: AMERICAN SNIPER is maybe Bradley Cooper’s biggest test as a leading man to date. Playing a very real guy whose legacy can’t help but walk tall over the proceedings, Cooper, who tends to work with rock-solid supporting casts in films by directors like David O. Russell and Todd Phillips, is front and center throughout. This is as close to a “star” vehicle as you can get these days. Given Cooper’s strong body of work over the last couple of years, it’s no surprise that Cooper not only rises to the occasion, but gives a performance that’s so gritty and magnetic that it overcomes the few elements of AMERICAN SNIPER that don’t quite work.

Directed by eighty-four year old Clint Eastwood, AMERICAN SNIPER is a considerably achievement for all involved. While Eastwood’s last few films have played to middling reviews and box office, this one seems like a surefire hit. It’s a muscular, often ultra-violent film, and the most adrenaline charged thing he’s directed since UNFORGIVEN, contrasting sharply with his more conservatively done war films FLAG OF OUR FATHERS/LETTERS FROM IWO JIMA.

The movie’s first scene is an absolute stunner, with it being that bit from the trailer where Cooper’s Kyle stares down the scope of his rifle and has to decide whether or not to shoot a child who’s about to bomb a convoy. The tension is cut somewhat when Eastwood uses it to launch into an extended flashback showing Kyle’s childhood and early days in SEAL training (which is not as evocatively shot as similar scenes in Peter Berg’s LONE SURVIVOR). From here it becomes a more conventional military tale, and much of the tension hinges on Cooper’s Kyle trying to track down a rival, insurgent sniper. The hero versus villain structure makes this feel like more of a typical action romp than the usual war film. While I have no idea how accurate this is, it can’t be denied Eastwood seems right at home staging big action set pieces and some of them are nail-biters. I was consistently surprised at how hard edged the violence was, with an especially brutal scene showing an Al-Qaeda boss named “The Butcher” living up to his name by using a power drill to kill a child (which Eastwood depicts graphically). All of this works though, as Clint’s clearly made a film depicting the hell of war, while also celebrating a guy like Kyle’s heroism.

I’d wager that whenever AMERICAN SNIPER is depicting the war in Iraq it’s a full-on winner, right up until the climax, which stretches credibility for dramatic effect that maybe wasn’t necessary. On the home front, the movie is more of a mixed bag. Sienna Miller, who’s in the midst of a well-deserved resurgence, is good as Kyle’s wife, but she takes a back seat to the action. Clearly, this isn’t her film, although her chemistry with Cooper is excellent (they’re actually reteaming for Cooper’s ‘Chef” project). One also wishes more time had been spent on Kyle’s struggles with post-traumatic stress, as these bits of the movie contain some of Cooper’s best acting. Somewhat unexpectedly, the balance between action and drama is weighed much more heavily on the action side, which is a surprise given Eastwood’s recent work, but also not a bad thing as the 135 minute run time flies by.

While I’m not quite sure AMERICAN SNIPER is Oscar-caliber outside of Cooper’s performance, overall it’s an exciting, entertaining film, as well as a somber one given what befell Kyle upon his return home. While maybe not quite on par with some of the best war movies, it’s Eastwood’s best film in a long time, and further proof that Cooper is both a great actor and a great star.

Source: JoBlo.com

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